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The restructuring of China"s top environmental authority will empower it to help the country better fulfill its obligation in reducing ozone depleting substances, said a senior official with the China office of the United Nations Development Programme.

Devanand Ramiah, deputy country director of UNDP China, told China Daily he was encouraged by China"s work in ODS reduction since the country joined the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in 1991.

Ramiah"s comments come as the world celebrated the 24th International Ozone Layer Protection Day on Sunday.

"After the Montreal protocol, the Chinese government has taken this very seriously in terms of putting forth all of its efforts and summoning all of its political will to address this issue.

"It"s not easy because of the scale in China, but I think China is doing extremely well," he said, adding that the country has phased out both CFC and bromomethane at least two years ahead of the time frame required under the protocol, and it is moving ahead with clear targets in weeding out HCFCs. All three of these chemical compounds are ODS.

China, as the largest producer and exporter of ODS, faces a series of challenges in phasing out the substances, he said.

The scale of companies related to ODS differs and it"s a challenge to come up with a strategy to address the issue. There can be difficulties in monitoring small enterprises, he said, adding the diverse and scattered nature of these firms can make their oversight difficult.

He also said it"s challenging for China and also the rest of the world to find lower cost alternatives to ODS, citing the example of CFC-11.

CFC-11 foam was widely used as insulation before it was banned in 2010. It"s much cheaper than many other substances that could replace it.

Despite the challenges, Ramiah said he is "very optimistic" that China will earnestly fulfill its obligations after strengthening its top environmental authority.

"As you know, the biggest push by the Chinese government is to balance development with environmental protections, and it"s taking the environmental aspect of development very seriously."

The newly strengthened Ministry of Ecology and Environment shows the push from Chinese government at the highest level, he said.

The reshuffle will help ODS management because the National Management Office of ODS Import & Export will become an independent office.

"That again shows a state of seriousness in terms of enforcement capacity," he said.

In the latest institutional restructuring initiated by the State Council in March, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment was established to assume duties from seven government bodies, including the duty of responding to climate change.

"We have a very robust program and we are delivering with our partners. Institutional strengthening requires a lot of coordination between different entities and the institutions need to be strong. All in all I think it"s going well," he said.

Many countries have been following China"s lead in introducing new ODS control plans.

With the support of the UNDP, there have been countries coming to China, including Malaysia, India and Indonesia, to learn from both the Chinese government and the private sector, he said.

"China"s challenge is so vast but China"s action has also been vast," he said.