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Ozone under threat from CFC-11

The surge in illegal CFC-11 production and use in China will, according to a recently published athe recovery of the ozone layer.

The paper, titled Delay in recovery of the Antarctic ozone hole from unexpected CFC-11 emissions, suggests that the emissions could add two years to the recovery of the ozone layer – if, that is, the CFC-11 emissions are curtailed again over the next several years. If emissions remain unchecked, the admittedly unlikely worst-case scenario could be a recovery delay of around 18 years. Currently, forecasts for ozone layer recovery estimate a return to an “abundant” 1980s level by 2030. 

The paper, which was published in the international research journal Nature, states that the impact of the newly produced CFC-11 – a chlorofluorocarbon otherwise phased out in 2010 due to its extremely high global warming potential – is currently small. However, due to its use in the production of polyurethane foam, more may be released later.

When environmental monitoring sites reported spikes in CFC-11 in 2019, and following several reports on the matter, the Chinese government was reportedly quick to respond and cracked down on production sites thought to be producing or employing CFC-11.

However, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) – which has previously published reports on the resurgence of CFC-11 production and usage in China – has called for more action and investigation into the matter. 

Clare Perry, climate campaigns leader at the EIA, said: “There remain significant uncertainties in what has actually happened and the effectiveness of the enforcement actions so far. China has located only three illegal CFC-11 production sites, with relatively small capacities, which could not account for the level of illegal CFC-11 production.

“A fundamental problem is that we don’t know the actual CFC-11 production level and the amount now contained in new foam materials. We are urging China to strengthen and enhance its enforcement efforts and undertake comprehensive testing of foams to better understand the situation.”

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