SADC countries unite to control ozone depleting substances

SADC countries unite to control ozone depleting substances

By Ilana Koegelenberg and DEA

In October last year, United Nations Environment OzonAction, in collaboration with the local government, organised a successful workshop to strengthen coordination and controls of ozone depleting substances in the SADC region.

SADC countries such as Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Eswatini, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe all gathered together from 24 to 26 October 2018 at the Birchwood Hotel in Johannesburg. The ‘National Ozone Unit and Customs Twinning workshop and Border Dialogues for countries of the SADC region — Africa Anglophone Network’ gathered officials from the various national ozone units, environmental inspectors, and customs from the countries involved.

Photos by Ilana Koegelenberg

BACKGROUND

Noting the recent revelations that emissions of the phased out R11 refrigerant have climbed 25% since 2012, suggesting illicit manufacturing in violation of the Protocol, has again raised the issue of the link with illegal trade in CFCs. There is growing evidence of an increasing illegal trade in HCFCs with seizures of HCFCs continuing around the world. Recently, a number of countries have been experiencing misdeclaration of mislabelled refrigerant. In relation to the illegal trade of HCFCs, monitoring of the trade of ozone depleting substances (ODS) at the national level and ODS trade between countries are key focal areas.

There are two main aspects that need to be considered in relation to the illegal trade in HFCFs:

a) Monitoring of ODS trade at national level

While all countries have licence and quota systems that cover HCFCs, their implementation and enforcement vary considerably from country to country. Results from verification of HCFC consumption in some countries show discrepancies between ODS trade statistics maintained by the National Ozone Unit, licensing authorities, and the Customs Department, which are attributed to the following:

  • Incorrect declaration of HS codes (misdeclaration or unintentional use of incorrect codes) during the customs clearance process, in particular where an ODS shipment is cleared in the same batch with other commodities.
  • Customs clearance is granted to importer/exporter without valid license issued by authority.
  • Illegal trade of ODS / smuggling the shipment.
  • Lack of effective monitoring mechanism to track the actual trade of ODS after the license is issued to importer/exporter. In some cases, the trade does not take place in accordance with the issued license, for example the importer fails to import ODS within validity of the license, or imports/exports less/more than the allowance in the license.
  • Lack of periodic reconciliation of data with the National Ozone Unit (NOU), licensing authorities, and the Customs Department.

b) ODS trade between countries

In most regions, comparison of reported import and export data indicates significant discrepancies in what countries report. For example, several countries report significantly less import of HCFC22 than the exporting counties declare. These discrepancies could result from, inter alia, illegal trade or incorrect or false application of licencing, or the trade of ODS that is recognised by one country, but not by another trading country (especially border trade, which is a big challenge for the customs to control in situations where there is a porous land border).

The above issues could be addressed to some degree through better cooperation between NOU and customs to improve implementation of the national licence and quota systems. Moreover, it is common that a customs authority can only inspect 1–2% of containers it receives. It is therefore of great importance that the containers selected for inspection are those most likely to contain smuggled goods, while shipments most likely to be in compliance are cleared without inspection. While the implementation of intelligence-led enforcement and/or risk profiling is common in many customs authorities (sometimes integrated into electronic/single window customs systems), a number of countries in the region do not use such an approach and ODS does not feature systematically, if at all, in the risk profiling criteria.

To assist A5 countries to address these issues and challenges, a number of NOU and customs twinning meetings with selected countries was proposed. These meetings are aimed at covering two main areas: (1) strengthening the cooperation between countries, and (2), more specifically on particular border-related issues (border dialogues).

Following the meeting, the countries had to report their border dialogue activities as an approved part of their HCFC Phase-Out Management Plan (HPMP) Montreal Protocol funded country projects.

Images by DEA.

 

A COMMON GOAL

The workshop was officially opened by Obed Baloyi, chief director Chemical Management at the Department of Environmental Affairs, on 24 October. In his opening remarks, Baloyi stressed that, at a practical implementation level, it is a fact that chemicals respect no borders, and thus as SADC, we need to work together towards this common goal of managing chemicals in an environmentally sound manner throughout their life cycle. Not only the ones prioritised in the various multilateral environmental agreements that we are party to, but also on any other chemicals that might be a challenge within the region.

The scourge of illegal use and subsequent adverse effects of highly toxic chemicals has been reported not only in the most vulnerable populations predominantly staying in squatter camps or shanty towns when they are trying to control rodents, but also on our wildlife.

Cecilia Njenga, head of the UN Environment office in South Africa, and Memory Ndou from the South African Revenue Service (SARS) within the Customs and Excise division, both emphasised the importance of strengthening coordination with NOUs to ensure effective management and control of quotas and prevention of HCFC-based equipment and ultimately enforcement of ODS regulations.

Patrick Salifu, regional network coordinator for Anglophone Africa of the UN Environmental Protection Agency (UNEP), steered the ship towards the attainment of the set workshop objectives and highlighted the need for active participation by all participants.

BILATERAL DISCUSSIONS

All NOU/Customs representatives got a chance to present and showcase the state of enforcement at their ports of entries, and implementation of HPMPs specifically on the monitoring aspects. Furthermore, they highlighted the gaps and concerns around the trade of HCFCs and ODS-based equipment among the SADC region. One of the burning issues raised was the illegal exports of HCFC-based equipment to other countries where they were banned, goods in transit, and data discrepancies.

To get to the root cause of the data discrepancies, bilateral discussions were held among countries, going into the nuts and bolts of the matter. Data was thoroughly compared, looking into data and companies that are involved in relation to the alleged illegal imports/exports of ODSs and equipment.

One of the issues highlighted during the bilaterals was that there is a need to monitor companies that operate in a number of countries. They will now be closely monitored as to whether they have quotas and legal documentation to import HCFCs.

PRACTICAL SESSION

A practical component was undertaken by customs and environmental inspectors to test refrigerants by using a portable analyser. It was clear from the practical session that the countries are driving towards a united front against illegal trade of ODSs.

On the second day of the workshop, Ezra Clark of UNEP also handed out a multiple-choice test to those in attendance to assess their knowledge on ODSs and related topics. Clark ran the workshop while the bilaterals happened next door, aiming to bring everyone up to the same level in terms of the requirements from the Montreal Protocol. 

ACTION PLAN

Going forward, Salifu, together with the participants, came up with workshop resolutions/recommendations to consider for auctioning in the near future. Among others, there was a strong consensus among participants to hold a south–south cooperation joint inspections training and awareness sessions from 2019 onwards.

The south–south cooperation interventions shall be held between two to four countries at an interval. They shall be between NOUs, environmental/enforcement inspectors, and customs officials, aimed at strengthening coordination among SADC. Communication among the relevant institutions is one of the key areas, as well as among countries, especially on trade of HCFCs and HCFC-based equipment.

These interventions are also aimed at reducing the issues around data discrepancies. Informal Prior-Informed Consent (iPIC) supporting compliance through prevention of illegal and unwanted trade in ODSs has proven to be effective. This initiative was developed to better manage trade in ODSs that are controlled under the Montreal Protocol.

A WORD OF THANKS

The Department of Environmental Affairs would like to thank the UN Environment OzonAction, participants from SADC, facilitators, and industry for ensuring a successful workshop in the country and ultimately in the wider region.

TOPICS COVERED

The workshop covered the following topics:

  • Overview of illegal trade and the need for action.
  • Improving implementation of licence and quota systems with a holistic approach, starting from allocation of quota up to when ODS is placed in the domestic market and beyond (in countries where post-clearance audits/inspection can be carried out); step-wise procedures to help countries to understand and address the possible loopholes.
  • Reconciliation of ODS trade data among NOU, licensing authority, and customs: how the trade data should be reconciled.
  • Analysis of trade discrepancies in ODS and cooperating mechanisms to reduce the trade discrepancies (including transhipment and import for re-export).
  • Risk profiling for ODS: application whether or not electronic/single window customs systems are used.
  • Options and challenges in handling smuggled ODSs confiscated at the border and smuggled ODSs in the domestic market.
  • HFC controls: commitments and options; the role of customs (phase-down schedules, HS codes, and the like).
  • Bilateral/trilateral discussion on specific cooperation, cases. 

WAY FORWARD

Some of the issues to be followed up by the regional network were documented as follows:

  1. Awareness activities.
  2. Misdeclarations.
  3. Encourage joint inter-agency and border dialogues.
  4. Consider ban on disposable cylinders.
  5. Encourage whistle-blower policies.
  6. Clamp down on smuggling on buses and personal vehicles.
  7. Lack of ODS destruction technology in the region to be addressed.
  8. Use of iPIC and encourage information sharing.
  9. Unavailability of alternative refrigerants on the local market to be addressed.
  10. Recognising and rewarding of customs officers as an incentive.
  11. Strengthening of enforcement on the local market.
  12. Encourage south–south cooperation to encourage capacity building.
  13. Stringent penalties for offenders and publicising offences. 

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