July 18 (UPI) -- During a recent working group meeting, parties to the Montreal Protocol agreed to an "urgent response" to the recent news of a rise in CFC-11 emissions was necessary.
Last month, scientists published findings in the journal Nature showing emissions of the ozone-eating chemical CFC-11 have been rising since 2013. An inquiry into the source of the emissions by the Environmental Investigation Agency uncovered dozens of Chinese foam manufacturing factories producing, using and selling products featuring CFC-11.
"The evidence gathered from conversations with multiple industry sources, including traders of CFC-11 and 18 different Chinese factories points to its widespread use in the foam blowing production industry as the primary source of the illegal emissions," EIA wrote in a report detailing their investigation.
At the recent Montreal Protocol meetings in Vienna, Austria, delegates acknowledged the seriousness of the revelations and pledged to "quantify, locate and halt these emissions," according to an update released by UN Environment.
The Montreal Protocol has often been hailed as one of the few global environmental success stories, but environmental watchdogs have pointed to the latest revelations as a serious test of the UN's ability to solve the planet's environmental problems.
"The issue is a test of the strength and muscle of the Montreal Protocol regime, which must mobilize all the pieces -- science, monitoring, verification and, possibly, sanctions," scientists wrote in a recent editorial published in the journal Nature.
While EIA's investigation has identified China's foam blowing production industry as the main source of rising CFC-11 emissions, parties to the Montreal Protocol won't move ahead with punitive actions until the findings are independently verified.
"The Montreal Protocol is one of the most successful multilateral treaties in history in large part because of its adherence to rigorous science and transparent cooperation," Keith Weller, a spokesperson for UN Environment, told UPI in an email.
According to Weller, China "responded urgently to allegations of illegal production in their domestic foam blowing industry."
The Chinese delegation to the recent Montreal Protocol working group meetings outlined steps they have taken to improve inspection, testing and enforcement.
EIA's investigation suggested China's foam factories were rarely subject to inspection. When inspections did occur, factory owners and managers said it was easy to hide the evidence of illegal CFC-11 production.
Montreal Protocol's Scientific Assessment Panel is investigating these claims as part of their own inquiry into the source of the illegal emissions.
"These complete findings, as well as monitoring data from other countries including stations in East Asia will be submitted for formal action to the Meeting of the Parties in November," Weller said.