16372247_sUK: The threat of a global black market trade in ozone-depleting refrigerants is greater than ever, according to a new report from the EIA.

New Trends in ODS Smuggling is the latest briefing from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and brings together analysis of trade and emissions data, recent reported seizures and a look at the global refrigerant and feedstock market.

The document, published on the eve of next week’s Montreal Protocol meeting in Paris, highlights some key areas of concern which the EIA says need to be addressed.

The EIA highlights significant discrepancies in trade data between China’s reported R22 exports to various countries and the various countrys’ reported Chinese R22 import figures.

Figures from 2012 and 2013 reveal that, on average, amongst China’s top 20 trading partners, imports of R22 from China were 32% lower than China’s reported exports. In many instances, the discrepancy is larger.

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Figures 1, 2 and 3 show R22 trade data comparisons between China and Singapore, Pakistan and Costa Rica in 2012 and 2013. In all three cases, China’s reported exports are much higher than the receiving country’s reported imports from China. These examples are by no means isolated. Of China’s top 20 R22 importing countries (according to Chinese export data), Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt have more than 20% average trade data discrepancies in 2012 and 2013, while the United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, Nigeria, Vietnam, Kuwait and Bangladesh have no R22 import trade data available.

Senior Climate Campaigner Fionnuala Walravens said: “While there are several possible explanations for this, EIA is concerned that HCFC-22 exports from China are being mis-declared as other non-ODS alternatives upon import.”

The EIA maintains that evidence from recent ODS seizures supports this. ODS are often declared as the HFC R134a.

“Environmental protection departments and customs should be monitoring trade in HFCs very closely and be aware of the increasing evidence that ODS are often mis-declared as HFCs,” added Fionnuala Walravens.

Another area of concern raised by EIA is the potentially huge illegal trade in ODS shipped in large tanks, such as ISO tanks. EIA research suggests that despite more than half of all global refrigerant shipments being made in large tanks, verification of the contents using refrigerant identifiers is woefully inadequate.

“There appears to be a lack of understanding as to how the contents of large tanks can be verified and as a result those checks are not happening,” said Walravens.

A copy of the EIA document can be viewed and downloaded here.