China, the US, and many other countries signed the Montreal Protocol, which banned the use of chemicals that destroy the ozone layer. The ozone layer is a crucial section of Earth’s stratosphere that absorbs most of the Sun’s dangerous radiation. The ozone part relates to a gas that is created by the radiation itself, which, as part of an ongoing chemical process, envelops us on Earth – allowing us to experience pleasant warmth from our central star rather than horrific burning, and it was under threat by the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other related chemicals. When these chemicals are released into the atmosphere, they trigger a chemical process known as photodissociation, which converts ozone gas back into regular oxygen, which simply doesn’t provide the same shield. So when the ozone layer hole was discovered in 1985, experts understood that this was a major problem as soon as the projections of the hole were forecast to only get bigger and eventually convincing the world’s nations to sign the Montreal Protocol in 1987, only two years after its discovery.
These now dubbed ‘mysterious emissions’ were predicted to originate from somewhere in East Asia, according to a study made by Nature which also provided the amount of CFC emissions released overtime.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) based in London would go on to investigate this issue. The EIA released a report stating that Chinese producers had found ways to dodge legal compliance and continued to use CFC, and it also stated how that China’s use of the banned substance can explain the majority of the mystery emissions. Chinese insiders told the EIA that the “Chinese producers continue to find ways to use CFC-11 because it’s a superior chemical when it comes to creating insulating foams.” The country’s construction boom would fuel the use of CFCs to produce these foams as it’s cheap and easy to produce, compared to the legal alternatives.
No country, so far, has taken action against China and environmentalists want the United Nations (UN) to step in and enforce the 1987 Montreal Protocol (MP). But in the meantime, the UN has not taken any type of action as the relationships between China and the countries making up the UN are fragile. The fear of trade tensions between China and the UN leaders inhibited action that would be warranted against China. China has a prominent role in American and European markets, resulting in both America and the European Union (EU) not wanting the risk of some sort of large scale ‘trade war’. A trade war is when usually the two countries involved, increase tariffs on each other, basically meaning that when a country sends material to another country, it will be taxed and during a trade war these taxes will be raised higher and higher until one gives in to the demand of the other country.
According to Quartz News, “… China’s CFC emissions from 2012 to 2022, if continued unabated, would total to one hundred forty-eight thousand metric tons, which is equivalent to seven hundred two million metric tons of CO2 emissions or sixteen large coal-fired power plants operating annually for that period”, this would encourage environmentalists around the globe to voice their concerns as the CFC emissions would delay the recovery of the planet’s ozone hole by a decade. This would induce the MP working group to assemble a meeting in Vienna on 11 July 2018, which would come to the conclusion that the Chinese government should be alerted and should prosecute these companies. This, one year later, would prove to be unsuccessful as the Chinese government would do nothing to stop the use of the illegal CFC substance by the companies. There was no meeting following this incident and most likely because of tensions between China and its trade partners.
Recently, the Environmental Investigation Agency released an article on January 21, 2020, that the Montreal Protocol gave China an agreement to receive three hundred eighty-five million dollars, as well as India, as the countries pledged to continue to destroy HFC-23 (similar to CFC-11) as domestic policy when the policy was created. But, HFC has reached an all-time high as reported by Nature magazine. This would go on to prompt the EIA to investigate in the HFC usage in China as China has a reputation of not obeying the protocol after China’s gallop with CFC-11. Since HFC is twelve thousand four hundred times more potent than carbon dioxide, it should be immediately investigated and intercepted. Also in a new study compiled in December 2019, the EIA stated that “China has located only three illegal CFC-11 production sites, with relatively insignificant capacities which could not account for the level of illegal CFC-11 production estimated by the Montreal Protocol’s experts (forty thousand to seventy thousand tons per year).” This further intensifies the situation as scientists predict an eighteen-year delay in the recovery of the ozone layer and legal repercussions have not yet been served, returning to the greatest issue holding back the situation from being solved, the global economic system.
This system is very fragile and any slight disturbance in the trade waters causes recessions and economic depressions due to trade insecurities. According to chinapower.csis.org, China accounts for approximately four trillion dollars or 12.4 percent of global trade. This gives China tremendous power over other countries’ economies since the USA only accounts for 11.9 percent of global trade and its closest rival, Germany, only accounting for 7.9 percent of global trade. During a trade war between the US and China in late 2019, this would account for eighty-four billion dollars in US losses according to forbes.com. This trade war was caused due to Chinese theft of U.S. intellectual property and the USA’s response in imposing tariffs on China as a result. This, fortunately, stayed contained as an isolated war and did not become a global trade war. A global trade war would mean losses in the economic sector of every country in the world. To tie in the trade wars to the Montreal Protocol, the UN members are supposed to enforce, fear of a global trade war as China has the ability to tariff the UN members and devastate their economies.
On the other hand, as China still has the grand majority of steel production across the globe, many countries may suffer, especially the United States if China decided to impose tariffs on U.S. imports of steel. This would drastically hurt the construction of major parts of the United States infrastructure and could lead to a devastating trade war, as stated earlier. They may repeat what the United States once did when they imposed tariffs on most agricultural products when they were a dominant producer in that industry. This caused a massive economic downfall for most other countries that either couldn’t or didn’t have a vast agricultural industry and also could have led to a devastating trade war. However, causing a trade war over steel would not be in China’s best interest as the grand majority of influence on their economy comes from the investment of foreign countries such as the United States or Middle Eastern countries. They impose tariffs on steel, simply put Saudi Arabia, may impose tariffs on oil leading to an influx in the price of oil which would wreak havoc on the Chinese economy. This, in turn, would lead to either a full out trade war between both economies seeking only to fight back against the other, a global trade war, or an end to the trade war before it even started which would be the best, but a most unrealistic option. Additionally, countries that are members of the United Nations would also suffer huge economic loss as a result of China having ownership of the steel industry. Countries such as Germany, Britain, and France would be completely devastated as China has eight times more steel production than the second-highest steel producer in the world, which is India at 107.5 million tons. Thus, no other nation will be in a position to provide the needed steel to continue business as usual, which leaves no other option but to either deal with China’s desire to impose tariffs on steel. China has over 51% of the world’s steel production, with the grand majority being exported for other countries, namely the United States, Britain, and France, coercing China’s steel, a necessity for countries across the globe.
Albeit China’s role in the UN is in peacekeeping operations, in fact, China is a world leader in these operations. China has currently 2,545 personnel employed full time to focus on peacekeeping efforts. China has gotten $1 billion as part of a China-UN Peace and Development Fund for expanding peacekeeping operations. This shows how China has a predominant role in the UN, being another reason why the UN would hesitate in acting about China’s illegal use of the CFC substance. In addition to China’s growth in UN relations, the US has scaled back its contributions to the UN, so China’s filling in the empty space caused by the United States’ steady withdrawal, gaining more and more global influence and involvement. As China gets more involved, the harder it will be for the UN to prosecute China. In response to this, the UN should investigate and assess the motives of China’s advancements so the UN can have a developed case against China. This case would include China’s interest in asserting its world view of the preeminence of national sovereignty over human rights, which is against the Univeral Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN as part of its ‘constitution’.
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