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生产违禁化学品,中国工厂成臭氧层“杀手”
In a High-Stakes Environmental Whodunit, Many Clues Point to China

来源:纽约时报    2018-07-03 02:50



        XINGFU, China — Last month, scientists disclosed a global pollution mystery: a surprise rise in emissions of an outlawed industrial gas that destroys the atmosphere’s protective ozone layer.        中国兴福——上个月,科学家们揭开了一个全球污染之谜:非法工业气体排放量出现的一次出人意料的陡增。这些气体会破坏大气层中具有保护作用的臭氧层。
        The unexpected increase is undermining what has been hailed as the most successful international environmental agreement ever enacted: the Montreal Protocol, which includes a ban on chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, and which was expected to bring a full recovery of the ozone layer by midcentury. But the source of the pollution has remained unknown.        这种意外增长,正在破坏有着史上最成功国际环境协议之誉的《蒙特利尔议定书》(Montreal Protocol)的效果,该协议包括禁止使用氟氯烃,本来有望在本世纪中叶实现臭氧层的全面恢复。但污染源仍然未知。
        Now, a trail of clues leads to this scrappy industrial boomtown in rural China.        现在,一连串的线索指向了中国农村的这个繁荣的工业城镇。
        Interviews, documents and advertisements collected by The New York Times and independent investigators indicate that a major source — possibly the overwhelming one — is factories in China that have ignored a global ban and kept making or using the chemical, CFC-11, mostly to produce foam insulation for refrigerators and buildings.        《纽约时报》和独立调查人员收集的采访、文件和广告表明,一个主要污染源——可能是占据绝对优势的来源——是中国的那些忽视全球禁令、继续制造或使用化学品CFC-11的工厂,CFC-11主要用于生产冰箱和建筑物使用的泡沫隔热材料。
        “You had a choice: Choose the cheaper foam agent that’s not so good for the environment, or the expensive one that’s better for the environment,” said Zhang Wenbo, owner of a refrigerator factory here in Xingfu, in Shandong Province, where he and many other small-scale manufacturers said that until recently, they had used CFC-11 widely to make foam insulation.        “过去,你可以做一个选择:选择对环境不太好的较便宜的发泡剂,还是贵的、对环境好的发泡剂,”山东兴福一家冰箱生产厂的厂长张文博(音)说。他和那里的其他许多小规模制造商表示,他们之前一直广泛使用CFC-11制造泡沫绝缘材料,直到最近才有所改变。
        “Of course, we chose the cheaper foam agent,” Mr. Zhang said during an interview in his office. “That’s how we survived.”        “我们当然会选择更便宜的发泡剂,”张文博在自己的办公室接受采访时说。“我们就是这样活下来的。”
        As he spoke, a crackdown was underway in the town and moments later, four officials entered Mr. Zhang’s factory, handed him a leaflet warning against a range environmental violations, including using CFC-11, and ordered his factory closed.        在他接受采访之时,镇上正在进行打击行动,不久张文博的工厂就来了四名官员,递给他一张传单,警告他不要违反一系列环境规定,包括使用CFC-11,并下令关闭他的工厂。
        “They never told us until last year that it was damaging the atmosphere,” Mr. Zhang said. “Nobody came to check what we were using, so we thought it was O.K.”        “直到去年,他们才告诉我们,这种东西在破坏大气层,”张文博说。“没人来检查我们用的是什么,所以我们以为没问题。”
        China has the world’s largest polyurethane foam market, making up about 40 percent of global consumption. And China accounted for nearly all East Asian production of CFC-11 and similar chemicals before they were banned.        中国拥有世界上最大的聚氨酯泡沫市场,约占全球消费总量的40%。在被禁之前,东亚的CFC-11和类似的化学品几乎都是中国生产的。
        China’s struggle to eradicate CFC-11 embodies the hurdles it faces in cleaning up after decades of frenetic industrial expansion, when officials often treated pollution as a necessary price of prosperity. But it also has consequences far beyond the nation’s borders.        中国根除CFC-11的努力体现了在几十年疯狂的工业扩张之后,中国在治理污染方面面临的障碍。之前,官员们常常将污染视为繁荣的必要代价。但它造成的后果超越了国界。
        Researchers said in a study published last month that a rise in emissions of CFC-11 was jeopardizing the effort to repair the ozone layer, which protects people and crops from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.        在上个月发表的一项研究中,研究人员表示,CFC-11排放量的增加正在危及修复臭氧层的努力。臭氧层保护人类和农作物免受太阳紫外线的伤害。
        That effort began in the 1980s with the adoption of the Montreal Protocol, which ultimately outlawed CFC-11 and similar chemicals that destroy the ozone layer (and, because they are greenhouse gases, contribute to climate change). Scientists predicted that, as the chemicals produced before the ban came into force degraded and disappeared, the layer would be fully restored by the middle of this century. But the recent study said the new emissions could delay that recovery by a decade.        这项努力始于上世纪80年代,当时通过的《蒙特利尔议定书》最终宣布禁止生产或使用CFC-11以及其他破坏臭氧层的类似化学品(并且,由于它们是温室气体,还会导致气候变化)。科学家们预测,随着禁令生效前生产的化学物质的降解、消失,到本世纪中叶,臭氧层有望完全恢复。但前不久的研究表明,新的排放可能会将恢复推迟十年。
        Some experts were skeptical that foam production in China could be the culprit.        一些专家猜测,中国的泡沫产品可能是罪魁祸首。
        “It is a very large amount to appear so suddenly,” David Sherry, a British expert on ozone chemicals who has worked in China, said by email.        “短时间内出现了大量气体,”曾在中国工作的英国臭氧化学物质专家戴维·谢利(David Sherry)在接受电子邮件采访时说。
        But the study’s authors said that such a large tide of emissions — on the order of 13,000 metric tons a year — could be explained only by new, illegal production, and said the source was probably in East Asia. Evidence suggests that an important focus may be small foam makers and their chemical suppliers in China, where regulators have long had a tough time bringing polluters to heel.        但该研究的作者们表示,如此大规模的排放——每年接近1.3万吨——唯一的可能是出现了新的非法生产。他们还表示,排放源很可能在东亚。有证据表明,一个主要的焦点可能是中国的小型泡沫制造企业以及它们的化学品供应商。在中国,监管机构长期以来一直难以控制污染企业。
        Chinese traders and experts candidly described how small, primitive chemical plants have kept making CFC-11 in spite of the ban, and their accounts are backed by government documents.        中国商人和专家坦率地介绍了简陋的小化工厂如何不顾禁令继续生产CFC-11,他们的说法也得到了政府文件的支持。
        “Currently there is still a large volume of illegally produced CFC-11 being used in the foam industry,” Shao Changying, an environment official in Shandong, wrote in a report published last year. Another Shandong environment office report in 2016 described a “quite vigorous illegal production of outmoded CFC-11,” which it said was “bringing risks to the market and environment.”        “目前,泡沫行业仍在大量使用非法生产的CFC-11,”山东环保官员邵常盈在去年发表的一份报告中写道。山东另一个环保办公室2016年发表的报告称“非法生产已淘汰CFC-11较为活跃”,报告称这会“给市场和环境带来风险”。
        Even while Shandong and other provinces have cracked down on the chemical, Chinese traders still offer it for sale online.        尽管山东等省份在打击这种化工产品,但中国商人仍在网上销售它。
        Stephen O. Andersen, a former official with the United States Environmental Protection Agency who served on one of the Montreal Protocol’s advisory committees, said cheaper legal alternatives to CFC-11 were available. In interviews, though, small Chinese manufacturers seemed unaware of them or unwilling to pay the costs of converting their equipment to use them.        曾供职于美国环境保护署(United States Environmental Protection Agency)、参加过《蒙特利尔议定书》一个咨询委员会的斯蒂芬·O·安德森(Stephen O. Andersen)表示,CFC-11有更便宜的合法替代品。然而,在采访中,中国的小制造商们似乎不知道那些替代品的存在,或者不愿意为替换可使用它们的设备支付成本。
        And Liu Le, a refrigeration expert in Shandong, said there were still companies ready to provide the CFC-11.        山东制冷专家刘乐表示,仍有公司准备供应CFC-11。
        “When nobody is watching, they can make some, or when they get an order — an underground order — they can also produce it,” Mr. Liu said. “They produce for a while until they’re discovered, and then move on.”        “没人注意时,他们会生产一些,接到订单——地下订单——他们也会生产,”刘乐说。“他们生产一段时间,被发现后就停止,然后继续生产。”
        An independent group, the Environmental Investigation Agency, said it had identified eight factories in four Chinese provinces where the chemical was being used in the foam-making process. The organization, based in Washington, said that and other evidence — including conversations with confirmed sellers of CFC-11 — pointed to the Chinese foam industry as the primary source of the new emissions.        美国独立组织环境调查机构(Environmental Investigation Agency)表示,它已发现中国四个省份的八家工厂在生产泡沫的过程中使用该化学品。这个位于华盛顿的组织表示,这一点,再加上其他证据——包括与已证实的CFC-11卖家的对话——都表明,中国泡沫行业是新排放的主要来源。
        “The scale of this environmental crime is devastating, with massive potential impact on the climate and the ozone layer,” said Alexander von Bismarck, executive director of the group. He said the agency had given initial findings to the Chinese government and the secretariat of the Montreal Protocol, and would publish a full report next month. “We’re hoping for a strong response from a strong environmental agreement,” Mr. von Bismarck said.        “这种环境犯罪的规模是毁灭性的,对气候和臭氧层具有巨大的潜在影响,”该组织的执行主任亚历山大·冯·俾斯麦(Alexander von Bismarck)说。他表示,该机构已向中国政府和《蒙特利尔议定书》秘书处提交了初步调查结果,并将于下个月发布完整的报告。“我们希望强大的环境协议能带来强烈的反应,”冯·俾斯麦先生说。
        Made aware of both The Times’s and the Environmental Investigation Agency’s findings, Erik Solheim, head of the United Nations Environment Program, which oversees the protocol, called illegal production of CFC-11 “nothing short of an environment crime which demands decisive action.”        联合国环境规划署(United Nations Environment Program)负责人埃里克·索尔海姆(Erik Solheim)在了解了《纽约时报》和美国环境调查机构的调查结果后,称CFC-11的非法生产是“一种需要采取果断行动的环境犯罪”。
        “At the same time, we have to dig deeper,” Mr. Solheim said in a statement. “Based on the scale of detected emissions there is good reason to believe the problem extends beyond these uncovered cases.”        “与此同时,我们必须深入挖掘,”索尔海姆在一份声明中说。“基于检测到的排放规模,我们有充分的理由相信,问题不仅局限于这些被发现的案例。”
        The Chinese Ministry of Ecology and Environment did not respond to questions about regulation of ozone-damaging chemicals and illegal output, and said it was preparing a response. Hu Jianxin, a professor at Peking University who studies such chemicals and advises policymakers, said he and other experts needed time to check the findings and track down possible sources in China and elsewhere.        中国环境保护部没有回应关于监管破坏臭氧的化学品和非法排放的问题,表示它正在准备做出回应。北京大学研究这种化学物质并为政策制定者提供建议的教授胡建信表示,他和其他专家需要时间核实这些调查结果,在中国和其他地方追踪可能的来源。
        “Illegal production and use of CFCs can of course contribute to the atmospheric concentrations,” Professor Hu said. But, he added, the jump in emissions indicated by the latest study also meant there may be new sources that had not been considered before.        “非法生产和使用氯氟烃肯定会导致大气浓度升高,”胡教授说。不过,他也表示,最新研究发现的排放量激增也意味着,可能存在之前没考虑过的新来源。
        Over the past decade, Chinese Communist Party leaders have come to see smog, tainted water and other pollution as serious threats to trust in the government. The government has made strides in curbing smog and slowing the growth of emissions of carbon dioxide and other planet-warming gases. Likewise, since announcing the ban on CFC-11, China has demanded that companies switch to less harmful chemicals.        在过去十年里,中国共产党领导人已经开始将雾霾和水污染等视为对政府信任的严重威胁。中国政府在治理雾霾以及减缓二氧化碳等温室气体的排放增长方面取得了很大进展。同样地,自从宣布禁止使用CFC-11以来,中国已经要求企业改用危害性较小的化学品。
        But officials and traders said it was a seesaw battle. Many polluters are small factories that slip through the net of inspections or treat fines and shutdowns as just the price of business.        但官员和商人们表示,这是一场拉锯战。许多污染企业都是小工厂,很容易钻监管网络的空子,或者只是将罚款和停工视为生意的代价。
        “On the one hand, 11 is cheaper, and on the other, its foaming effect is better,” said Ge Changqing, a manager for a legitimate chemical company, referring to CFC-11. “The demand is there downstream and local governments turn a blind eye. There’s money to be made.”        “一方面,11更便宜,另一方面,它的起泡效果更好,”一家合法化学公司的经理葛长青(音)在提到CFC-11时说。“但下游有需求,地方政府睁一只眼闭一只眼。他们需要挣钱。”
        The illicit producers often set up in isolated sites, sometimes protected by local cadres unaware of, or indifferent to, the risks.        非法生产企业往往设立在与外界隔离的场所,有时受到当地干部保护,他们不知道环境风险,或对之漠不关心。
        “These businesses are often out of the way, don’t have commercial registration, and don’t even have a name for their factories,” Mr. Liu, the expert on refrigeration chemicals, said in a presentation to officials last year. “Some of them regularly move, making it very difficult for the acting agencies to exercise oversight.”        “这些企业往往地处偏远,无工商登记,甚至无厂名,”化学制冷剂专家刘乐去年在向官员们的陈述中说,“有的还定期搬迁,给职能部门的监管带来很大困难。”
        There have been successes. In 2015, officials said that Shandong had shut 15 illegal makers of CFC-11 and a similar banned chemical since 2013, and that two people in the trade had been convicted.        也有成功的例子。2015年,官员们表示,自2013年以来,山东已查封了15家非法生产CFC-11以及其他类似违禁化学品的企业,两名交易者被定罪。
        Sometimes the closed plants have been sizable. Over just four months, one of those shut in 2015 made over 300 tons of an illegal ozone-destroying chemical often used as a coolant. Another, shut in 2012, made 1,100 tons of CFC-11 in 11 months and dumped toxic waste, causing a die-off at nearby fish farms, according to a court verdict.        有时被关闭的工厂规模很大。2015年查封的一家工厂在仅仅四个月的时间里就生产了300多吨用作冷却剂的破坏臭氧层的非法化学品。根据法庭裁决书,2012年查封的另一个工厂在11个月的时间里生产了1100吨CFC-11,并倾倒了有毒废料,导致附近养鱼场的水产全部死亡。
        But the number of Chinese factories that use polyurethane foam is daunting — Xingfu alone has around 1,700 businesses involved in making cooking and refrigeration equipment, according to the local government — and officials have said that tracking and punishing illegal chemical production is difficult.        但使用聚氨酯泡沫塑料的中国工厂数量十分惊人——根据当地政府的数据,仅兴福镇就有约1700家企业参与生产烹饪和制冷设备——官员们表示,很难追踪和惩罚非法化学品生产。
        “Illegal production and use is highly concealed, evidence is hard to obtain, and it’s quite difficult to crack cases,” Ms. Shao, the Shandong official, said in her report. “Among the cases of lawbreaking in recent years, only a small number of the suspects have received the punishment they deserve.”        “非法生产和使用具有高度隐蔽性,取证困难,案件难以侦破,”山东官员邵常盈在报告中说。“在近年来的违法案件中,只有少数嫌疑人受到应有惩罚。”
        When contacted, some online chemical traders denied selling the gas despite offering it in ads; some said their sales pages were out of date. But others said that they still sold the gas.        当被联系上时,网上一些化学品交易商否认出售这种气体,尽管他们在广告中声称供应它;还有些人说他们的销售页面已经过时了。但也有些人表示,他们仍在出售这种气体。
        “Using CFC-11 doesn’t necessarily mean violating the law,” said Wu Shaoji, a chemical salesman based in Shanghai. “The government doesn’t check.”        “使用CFC-11不一定违法,”上海的化学品销售者吴绍基(音)说,“政府不检查。”
        There are hints that Chinese officials were taking action even before the scientists’ warning. In January, the government announced tighter controls on carbon tetrachloride, a chemical that can be used to make CFC-11, and ordered unlicensed companies not to sell it off as a byproduct from making other chemicals.        有迹象表明,中国官员甚至在科学家发出警告之前就已开始采取行动。1月份,中国政府宣布,对可用来生产CFC-11的四氯化碳实行更严格的控制,并责令无证公司不得将它作为生产其他化学品的副产品进行销售。
        But paradoxically, underground demand for CFC-11 may have been partly spurred by China’s increasingly strict environmental standards. The government has demanded better insulation of buildings so they waste less energy, and that means more foam.        但矛盾的是,对CFC-11的地下需求可能在一定程度上受到中国日益严格的环境标准推动。政府要求对建筑物进行更好的隔热处理,以减少能源浪费,那就意味着,需要更多的泡沫塑料。
        At the same time, the government has tightened supplies of the main legal foam-making agent used in China, HCFC-141b, which is less harmful to the ozone layer. That chemical is scheduled to be phased out in China’s polyurethane foam sector by the end of 2025, to be replaced by even safer alternatives.        与此同时,中国政府收紧了对臭氧层危害较小的主要合法泡沫制造剂HCFC-141b的供应。中国计划在2025年底之前将这种化学品从聚氨酯泡沫塑料行业中淘汰出去,代之以更安全的产品。
        But Ms. Shao, the environment official, said that the surging price of HCFC-141b had encouraged some foam makers to fall back on black-market CFC-11 instead of embracing unfamiliar, next-generation alternatives.        但环保官员邵常盈表示,HCFC-141b价格的飙升促使一些泡沫塑料产品制造商退回了CFC-11黑市,而不是采用陌生的下一代替代产品。
        Factory owners in Shandong agreed.        山东的工厂主们对此表示同意。
        “They’ve reduced the amount of 141b every year so we just can’t afford it,” said Fan Jingang, a chemical factory owner who said he did not use illegal chemicals and had pulled out of making foam. “Energy conservation is a national policy, but if you can’t make a legal foam agent affordable, then you can’t achieve that goal.”        “他们每年都减少141b的产量,所以我们买不起了,”化工厂老板范金刚(音)说。他说,他没有使用非法化学品,也已经不再生产泡沫塑料。“节能是国策,但如果合法的发泡剂都让人买不起,那就没法实现目标。”
                
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