Since 1987, the international community has made great strides toward eliminating the manufacture, trade, and use of ozone-destroying substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), with global consumption of these chemicals dropping more than 70 percent . (See Success Story: CFC Production Has Fallen Sharply.) In fact, the Montreal Protocol has been held up as a model of international mobilization in the face of a global environmental threat.
|Success Story: CFC production has fallen sharply|
|Annual production of CFCs, 1986-95|
|Source: Sebastian OberthÃ¼r, Production and Consumption of Ozone-Depleting Substances, 1986-1995 (Deutsche Gesellschaft FÃ¼r Technische Zusammenarbeit, Bonn, Germany, 1997), p. 30.
Note: Ozone-depleting potential (ODP) tons is a measure by which ozone-depleting substances are weighted according to their ability to destroy ozone.
Despite these efforts, the stratospheric ozone layer is not safe yet. The conversion process from CFCs to less damaging substances is not complete in developed nations and is still at an early stage in many developing nations. Moreover, the Montreal Protocol’s ambitious plan to replace ozone-depleting chemicals is threatened by the recent growth of a black market in CFCs, and by the difficulty a few Eastern European countries have had in phasing out CFC production and consumption. Perhaps of most concern is the increasing production and use of CFCs in some rapidly developing nations.
The good news is that the speed of the transition away from CFCs and other ozone-depleting chemicals has been more rapid than many thought possible, given the ubiquity of these chemicals in commerce just a decade ago. As refrigerants, foam-blowing agents, solvents, aerosol propellants, fire retardants, and cleaning agents, these chemicals reached into nearly every household and workplace in the developed world in one product or another. In the United States, which alone accounted for roughly one third of global CFC use in 1987 when the Montreal Protocol was negotiated, CFCs played a role in delivering some US$28 billion in goods and services and were essential to the functioning of some US$130 billion worth of installed equipment such as refrigeration units and air conditioners . Despite widespread use, most developed countries were able to meet the Protocol’s 1996 deadline to cease CFC production.
Reaching this goal required a remarkable level of cooperation among governments, CFC producers, and various industries. Reluctant at first, but faced with the international community’s resolve to meet the problem head on, industry groups accepted the challenge of retooling products and processes to avoid CFC use. Industry estimates of the final price tag for a global phaseout of CFCs and halons are as high as US$40 billion, excluding the costs governments and international organizations have incurred organizing and promoting the transition .
In response to these efforts, atmospheric concentrations of CFCs are beginning to level off or decline   . If the plan to eliminate all ozone-depleting substances proceeds as set forth in the Protocol, the levels of stratospheric chlorine – the CFC breakdown product that actually destroys ozone – should peak between 1997 and 1999 and then decline gradually for more than a century . In turn, ozone loss will diminish gradually as well until, around 2050, the Antarctic ozone hole disappears .
The bad news is that several factors, key among them illegal trade, threaten to undermine full compliance in the years ahead . Substantial demand for these chemicals still exists in the developed world, mostly to service existing refrigeration and cooling equipment. In most developed countries, servicing requirements for these units can be met legally with either recycled CFCs or new CFCs from preexisting stocks. However, because these sources are limited, there is added incentive to illegally import virgin CFCs.
Estimates of the size of the CFC black market range from 20,000 to 30,000 metric tons annually worldwide . In late 1995, the chemical industry estimated that as much as 20 percent of the CFCs then in use in the world had been obtained on the black market . A good deal of this illegal trade is focused in the United States, which has imposed a high excise tax on CFCs since 1990 to encourage recycling of CFCs already in use and to spur conversion of equipment away from CFC use. Since the excise tax has substantially increased the cost of CFCs in the U.S. market, it has provided a potent driving force for the illegal trade. Europe has also experienced considerable black market trade, probably in the range of 6,000 to 10,000 metric tons per year .
In the United States, enforcement agencies have begun to crack down on illegal trade, with some encouraging results. United States Customs authorities and law enforcement officials had impounded some 1,000 metric tons of smuggled CFCs by the end of 1997, and authorities report some tapering off in the flow of illegal materials . In Europe, enforcement has recently taken a significant step forward with the confiscation of about 1,000 metric tons of illegal CFCs in Germany .
References and notes
1. Sebastian Oberth<@252>r, Production and Consumption of Ozone-Depleting Substances, 1986-1995 (Deutsche Gesellschaft f<@252>r Technische Zusammenarbeit, Bonn, Germany, 1997), p. 65.
2. Elizabeth Cook, ed., Ozone Protection in the United States (World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C., 1996), p. 1.
3. F.A. Vogelsberg, “An Industry Perspective: Lessons Learned and the Cost of the CFC Phaseout,” paper presented at the International Conference on Ozone Protection Technologies, Washington, D.C., October 1996, p. 1.
4. R.G. Prinn et al., “Atmospheric Trends and Lifetime of CH3CCl and Global OH Concentrations,” Science, Vol. 269 (1995), p. 187-191.
5. J.H. Butler et al., “A Decrease in the Growth Rates of Atmospheric Halon Concentrations,” Nature, Vol. 359 (1992), pp. 403-405.
6. J.W. Elkins et al., “Decrease in the Growth Rates of Atmospheric Chlorofluorocarbons 11 and 12,” Nature, Vol. 364 (1993), p. 780.
7. D.J. Hofmann, “Recovery of Antarctic Ozone Hole,” Nature, Vol. 384 (1996), pp. 222-223.
8. M. Prather et al., “The Ozone Layer: The Road Not Taken,” Nature, Vol. 381 (1996), p. 554.
9. Duncan Brack, International Trade and the Montreal Protocol (Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, 1996), pp. 105-114.
10. Duncan Brack, Senior Research Fellow, Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, November 1997 (personal communication).
11. Op. cit. 9, p. 105.
12. Op. cit. 10.
13. Thomas Land, Stratospheric Ozone Protection Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., November 1997 (personal communication).
14. Op. cit. 10.