Ozone-depleting substances, or ODS, have posed a serious threat to the Earth's fragile ozone layer. To mitigate the hazardous influence, in 1989, a universal agreement known as the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, entered into force. In 1991, China officially ratified the protocol. Since then, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has helped China implement over 50 projects to eliminate ODS in the refrigeration, foam, pharmaceutical and agricultural production sectors.
"They have brought us new ideas and more advanced technologies. They also helped us to prepare programme files to apply for the support of the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol, and arranged overseas tours for us," said FENG Jiang, president of the China Household Electrical Appliances Association.
The organization has collaborated with more than 30 Chinese companies. Haier is one of the enterprises that first adopted Freon-free refrigeration technology in China. Since 1995, Haier has been working with UNIDO to phase out Freon.
"We have the obligation to fulfill international commitments and protect the ozone layer. This is an important task for Haier as well," said ZHAO Yanfeng, vice president of the Haier Group.
Stephan Sicars, who is now director of UNIDO's Department of Environment, worked as a Senior Programme Officer with the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer for ten years. He highly commended the efforts made by China and UNIDO. "They (UNIDO) helped significantly reduce the climate impact of China's industry, and that happened through leapfrogging technologies far beyond those of Western countries at the time."
In total, UNIDO's projects to clean up China's refrigerator and air conditioner sector have phased out over 10,000 tonnes of ozone-depleting substances, reduced pollutants equivalent to 33 million tonnes of CO2 and helped the companies increase energy efficiency by up to 12 percent.
Two decades later, China's home appliance industry has come a long way. Now Haier has become one of the world's leading manufacturers of home appliances. Reports in 2019 say it ranked number one in international sales for 10 consecutive years.
Feng explained that green development is necessary for China's home appliance industry. "As China's home appliance industry develops, especially in the refrigerator production sector, we need to export a larger amount of products. If we had not carried out projects to eliminate ODS and enhanced our capacity for environmentally friendly development, our exports to other countries would have been hindered."
"This is a step necessary to achieve the high-quality economic development," Feng added.