Taking firm steps

OUR PLANET 9.2 - Ozone

Taking firm steps


describes what China has already done to phase out ozone-depleting substances and charts the way forward

woman and childThe Montreal Protocol is a shining example of global cooperation to solve environmental problems. Its success is evident. Developed countries have basically phased out their ozone-depleting substances (ODS). There is therefore now more pressure on developing countries to take accelerated steps to meet their commitments under it.

The Chinese Government has long been involved in international cooperation on protection of the ozone layer. Since it became a Party to the Vienna Convention in 1989, China has both actively participated in international meetings, making its own proposals, and carried out action at home.

It has already phased out ODS equivalent to about 20,000 tonnes of ozone-depleting potential, through the efforts of its industry and with support from the Multilateral Fund. CFC-free refrigerators, hair stylers, pesticides and automobile air- conditioners, and halon-free extinguishers have become more and more popular. However, we are still at an early stage of development and so the amount of ODS consumed has tended to rise continually in recent years. This exerts great pressure on the phase-out, and makes it harder and more complicated.

We shall continue to bring initiatives from ODS producers and consumers into play and to encourage them to manufacture products with less or no ODS. We shall also act to raise the public's awareness of the need to protect the ozone layer and to encourage public involvement. Consumers can influence enterprises' policies through their shopping choices and hence accelerate the phase-out in our country.

Our institutional framework, combining administrative management with technical support, is more effective and efficient than ever. China's Leading Group for Ozone Layer Protection, responsible for programming and policy-making for ODS substitution, was established in July 1991. The National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) was designated its leader, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the State Planning Commission and the State Science and Technology Commission as deputies.

In 1992, NEPA set up an Information Clearing-house and a Project Management Office mainly responsible for data collection, information exchange, policy-making, project implementation, coordination and supervision for the phase-out. Various departments under the State Council have formed their own leading groups for the protection of the ozone layer and have provided assistance to NEPA. Research and Testing Centres for ODS Substitution have been set up to further investigation, planning, technology development, information exchange and training.

As the years have passed, the importance of involving local environmental protection bureaus has been increasingly noted, and - as the 1997-1998 annual work plan for ozone layer protection describes - they are now placed more positively both to submit projects for ODS substitution, and to help NEPA to supervise their implementation and follow-up.

China, through voluntary incentives, has a green labelling system for environmentally friendly products. Many CFC-free refrigerators and aerosol products have been authenticated under it. Customers can, therefore, easily recognize and choose the right commodities.

The Country Programme was formulated in 1992, approved by the State Council in January 1993, and formally adopted at the ninth Executive Committee meeting in March 1993. Recognized as a model of its type, it was translated into six other languages and distributed widely throughout the world.

In 1994 and 1995 NEPA, along with the appropriate ministries, organized the formulation of eight sector strategies - in aerosols, halons, foams, the chemical industry, domestic refrigerators, industrial and commercial refrigeration, mobile air-conditioning and solvent cleaning - defining objectives, technical methods, priority projects, policy and measures, and the budget for the phase-out.

A new approach

China has also developed a sectoral approach to phasing out ODS in China's fire-fighting industry with the help of the World Bank. Through it, China will commit to meet phase-out targets for the sector as a whole (rather than through the traditional project-by-project approach) by an agreed timetable and within a fixed amount of financial support. This will ensure that the fund is used more efficiently and the phase-out is more certain. This new approach is expected to be implemented next year and will be expanded to other major sectors, further demonstrating the seriousness of China's commitment to the Protocol.

Some sectors and departments have already set up more detailed and specific management policies under the Country Programme to improve the control of the use and the production of ODS. In recent years NEPA has also issued several specific policies and regulations in cooperation with the appropriate ministries.

NEPA and the ministries have prepared many projects with the assistance of international experts and organizations. Since 1993, 210 have been approved by the Executive Committee, receiving total grants of as much as $150 million. About 40 will be completed by the end of this year. We have summarized our experience and compiled the Guideline for Implementing Montreal Protocol Multilateral Fund Projects.

woman in field

Learning from experience

As the Executive Committee has requested, China has collected and reported data on ODS production and consumption, and carried out extensive activities for technology exchange in order to improve ODS substitution. These include study tours that enable experts to go to the United States, Japan and European countries to learn from their experience. We have also organized over 30 sectoral workshops since 1994, and published such periodicals as Ozone Action in China (in both Chinese and English) and books.

Despite these achievements, we still face many problems. With limited assistance from the Multilateral Fund, it is very difficult to fulfill the objectives for ODS substitution in large, medium and small enterprises in various sectors. Further research on developing more effective measures is urgently needed. New mechanisms need to be adopted and relevant policies formulated.

We should further strengthen overall coordination, develop and spread new technologies, mediate between various departments and strengthen institutional capacity-building. The production of ODS substitutes should be harmonized with their consumption.

Simplification for efficiency

Procedures for submitting and implementing projects are sometimes too complicated and over-elaborate. We hope the implementing agencies can further improve them and make them simpler, more standardized and efficient. So far no projects have ever been approved for the chemical production sector and this adversely affects progress in other sectors.

We should further strengthen the research, import and development of ODS substitution technologies suitable for China, carry out more research on policy-making and further specify the policy framework in the Country Programme. We need to do more to increase awareness among both the public and leaders at various levels.

In spite of the difficulties, China will steadily increase its efforts and step firmly forward towards the final targets. At the end of this year, the use of CFCs will be banned in China's aerosol sector (excluding for medical purposes). This is a remarkable step, and further shows China's serious attitude to fulfilling its commitments under international conventions.

We have allocated resources and personnel to update China's Country Programme for Phase-out of Ozone-Depleting Substances and hope it will guide us to take more firm steps successfully to phase out ODS in the country.

Complementary articles in other issues:
Xie Zhenhua: Being in earnest (Hazardous Waste) 1999
Mario J. Molina: Saving the shield (UNEP 25) 1997

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