Illegal trade in ozone-depleting substances rises in Asia-Pacific

April 21st, 2008 - 1:34 pm ICT by admin  

Singapore, April 21 (DPA) Illegal trans-boundary trade in ozone-depleting chemicals has increased dramatically in the Asia-Pacific region, said a study released by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Monday. The scourge of illegal ozone-depleting substances (ODS) has developed into one of the major obstacles in achieving their “timely and efficient phase-out” said the report, noting that the Earth’s ozone layer remains “fragile and under threat”.

Comparing figures between countries trading in ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) shows “a discrepancy between what is being legally exported into a particular country and the actual legal import figures of the country”, said Ludgarde Coppens, policy and enforcement officer for the UNEP division of technology, industry and economics.

“The figures just do not match,” he noted. “A good 55 percent of these goods are unaccounted for.”

The size of the black market in developed countries for CFCs in the mid-1990s was estimated at around 16,000 to 38,000 tonnes, said the study unveiled before Earth Day Tuesday. “The illegal trade in the Asia and Pacific region has increased dramatically.”

An analysis of CFC exports and imports between key importing countries including Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Iran and major exporting countries such as China, India and Singapore in 2004 found more than 4,000 tonnes of CFCs unaccounted for in the importing nations.

Nearly 51 percent of legal exports from China and 47 percent of legal exports from India into Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Iran are not found in the import statistics of the importing countries, the study said. No import license was given.

The study was released prior to the UNEP’s Business for the Environment Global Summit Tuesday and Wednesday. Among the highlights is the awarding of the 2008 Champions of the Earth trophies with a special price going to New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who launched three major policy initiatives to fight climate change.

The others are Prince Albert II of Monaco for his country’s policies towards reducing carbon dioxide emissions, Atiq Rahman, the executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, former Yemen Prime Minister Abdul-Qader Ba-Jammal, former US senator Timothy E. Wirth who has been an environmental advocate for 30 years, former Barbados minister of energy and the environment Liz Thompson, and Sudan’s senior scientist Balgis Osman-Elasha.

The study said the main routes used by smugglers are India-China-Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia-Thailand, Bangladesh-India, Nepal-India, China-Philippines, China-Malaysia, China-Indonesia, Singapore-Malaysia and Malaysia-Thailand.

Among the reasons cited for illegal trade are the high costs of substitutes, the long lifespan of equipment using CFCs, the high demand for CFCs in the servicing sector and the “often paltry penalties for smuggling these illegal substances”,

“Continued, even if not increased dependency on CFCs, facilitated by low prices on the international black market, encourages smuggling of these chemicals as controls reduce legal supplies,” the report said.

The report singled out Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia for taking action to reduce suspicious shipments and review the licensing system.

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