China exposed in global CFC racket

Posted: 13 December 2005

New evidence was revealed today of the leading role played by Chinese firms in the worldwide illegal trade in ozone-destroyingCFCs (chlorofluorocarbons).

The revelations, released by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), come at a time when the ozone layer is in a fragile state, with severe depletion this year over both the northern and southern hemisphere.

The evidence, contained in a new report entitled Under the Counter, shows Chinese smugglers easily evading restrictions and supplying CFCs to the black market. Some have been involved in the illegal CFC trade since the mid- 1990s.

The report is the result of undercover investigations and eight years of tracking of the global illegal CFC trade, and is released as delegates from over 180 countries attend the Montreal Protocol meeting in Senegal.

Posing as chemical dealers, EIA investigators visited a number of firms in the Chinese province of Zhejiang, the centre of the country's CFC industry, and were offered supplies of illegal CFCs totalling 122 tonnes as well as guarantees of continued supply.

These initial trial orders were equivalent to more than 12per cent of the entire quantity of CFCs available to China for all its export and for stockpiling in 2006.

Firms named

The Chinese firms who made the offers included; China's largest CFC manufacturer; the sales department of a factory that had been paid to stop producing CFCs in 2003; and several other firms whose illicit activities were exposed by EIA as far back as 1997, including Joe Koman from Ningbo Sino Resource, a leading CFC smuggler who has recently invested in a new facility.

The investigators were also informed of the various methods used to smuggle the chemicals to countries in South East Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America and Europe. The most frequently used method being mis-declaring the CFCs as alternative chemicals that are not controlled by the Montreal Protocol.

Dr. Ezra Clark, Head of EIA's Ozone Layer Campaign, stated: "We were shocked by the blatant disregard of the Chinese traders for the restrictions placed on CFCs. They are hindering the recovery of the ozone layer for a quick profit, and this needs to be stopped. "

China is the largest producer of CFCs in the world, and has received substantial funding from the international community to close factories and cease production in 2007, three years ahead of schedule. The Chinese authorities claim to have rigorous controls in place to monitor the production and export of CFCs, yet these were easily avoided by the smugglers EIA met with.

Dr. Clark continued: "Whilst China should be applauded for reducing its CFC production, it has a responsibility to ensure CFCs made in China don't end up on the black market. It is not acceptable to turn a blind eye and pass the problem on to customs officers in importing countries."

EIA is calling on China to fully investigate the firms named in the EIA report and for the Montreal Protocol countries meeting in Senegal to put in place effective measures to control and track the trade in all ozone-depletingsubstances.

Related link

Recovery of the ozone layer threatened by smuggling, profit and complacency