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World’s most successful environmental treaty threatened by a chemical nightmare of harmful gas emissions

MONTREAL: A deadly cocktail of unexplained chemical gases harmful to the Earth’s ozone layer and climate is building up in the atmosphere, a new report warns.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) report Chemical Nightmare – Ending emissions of fluorochemical greenhouse gases is released as the 34th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol (MoP34) opens in Montreal, Canada.

In 2018, scientists discovered unexpected emissions of CFC-11, a potent ozone-depleting substance which had been banned for nearly a decade.

EIA investigations traced the source of CFC-11 to illegal production and use in the polyurethane foam sector in China, which had gone undetected for years by the Montreal Protocol’s existing monitoring and compliance mechanism.

China’s response appears to have had immediate impact, with atmospheric data indicating that these emissions significantly decreased in 2019, a trajectory that has continued through 2020 and the early part of 2021.

But Chemical Nightmare’s review of the latest scientific findings suggests that CFC-11 is just the tip of the iceberg.

“The alarm bells of mounting scientific evidence are impossible to ignore – the production of man-made fluorochemicals is leading to vast uncontrolled emissions of dangerous gases, which are damaging the planet’s ozone layer and exacerbating the climate emergency,” said EIA US Climate Campaign Lead, Avipsa Mahapatra.

The Montreal Protocol’s own Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion draws attention to unexplained emissions of multiple CFCs, carbon tetrachloride and HFC-23, attributing emissions to feedstocks, by-products or unknown sources.

The meeting will also discuss several proposals to curb industrial emissions and strengthen institutional processes to avoid a repeat of the CFC scandal.

EIA UK Climate Campaign Leader Clare Perry said: “We should be very worried at these unexpected and unexplained emissions of fluorochemical greenhouse gases, which amount to many hundreds of millions of carbon dioxide equivalent tonnes in the atmosphere every single year.

“We urge the Montreal Protocol to take immediate action to address these emissions and to include all fluorochemical industrial processes in a comprehensive review of the Protocol’s institutions.”



  • Clare Perry, EIA Climate Campaign Leader, via clareperry[at]
  • Avipsa Mahapatra, EIA US Climate Campaign Lead, via amahapatra[at] or
  • Paul Newman, EIA UK Senior Press & Communications Officer, via press[at]
  • Denise M. Stilley, EIA US Head of Communications, via dstilley[at]



  1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses. Our undercover investigations expose transnational wildlife crime, with a focus on elephants, pangolins and tigers, and forest crimes such as illegal logging and deforestation for cash crops such as palm oil; we work to safeguard global marine ecosystems by tackling plastic pollution, exposing illegal fishing and seeking an end to all whaling; and we address the threat of global warming by campaigning to curtail powerful refrigerant greenhouse gases and exposing related criminal trade.
  2. The 34th meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol meets from 31 October to 4 November in Montreal, Canada. See
  3. The Montreal Protocol is widely acknowledged as the world’s most successful environmental treaty, having phased out more than 99 per cent of ozone-depleting substances, which are also potent greenhouse gases. By reducing CFC emissions and UV-B radiation, the Montreal Protocol is estimated to have avoided 2.5C warming by the end of the century. For more information see
  4. Read and download Chemical Nightmare – Ending emissions of fluorochemical greenhouse gases at