During the celebration of the 22nd anniversary of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the World Customs Organization (WCO) has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring the successful implementation of this international instrument by Customs administrations around the world.
The Protocol has established a comprehensive mechanism to ensure global compliance by effectively controlling the trade in ozone depleting substances (ODS). WCO Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya, said that “protecting the environment is a priority for the WCO. All Customs authorities have a very important role to play in ensuring a greener and safer world as they are on the frontline and primarily responsible for dealing with goods at borders.” He added that “while Customs is fully aware of the challenges it faces in combating the illegal trade in ODS and other environment-fragile goods, fauna and flora, the WCO in partnership with its Member Customs administrations and other interested parties will not flinch in its efforts to protect the environment through effective border enforcement”.
Frequently, non-producer countries and free-trade zones are abused as transit points for further distribution of ODS, thus bypassing the Montreal Protocol Licensing System. False declarations and mislabelling make it even more difficult for Customs to detect these goods. The task of restricting smuggling in developing countries is of particular importance in view of the fact that the bulk of production and consumption now occurs in these countries, as their scheduled phase out of ODS is still to be completed.
2009 has thus far witnessed a number of significant interceptions of ODS by Customs, including more than 85 used refrigerators and almost 19,000 kg of refrigerator compressors containing CFCs. While these seizures are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’, they nevertheless reveal the extent of this illegal activity.
The WCO has reaffirmed its commitment to continue investing heavily in building the capacity of Customs administrations to stop all forms of environment crime. It will also step up its efforts to enhance cooperation with other international organizations such as United National Environment Programme (UNEP) which together with the WCO form part of the Green Customs Initiative.