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India agrees to phase out climate-damaging HFCs

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Creative Commons: Narendra Modi Official, 2014.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Creative Commons: Narendra Modi Official, 2014.

In its efforts to take leadership on climate action, the Indian government has submitted plans to the UN to phase down the climate-damaging refrigerant HFCs which are used in air-conditioners, refrigerators and insulating foams.

Experts say that cutting these would be equal to stopping the release of 100 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2050.

India had been the most vocal opponent to phasing down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol, a strategy first proposed in 2009 by the Federated States of Micronesia, and followed by a proposal by the US, Mexico, and Canada.

According to the Times of India, the Modi government has now proposed an amendment, saying the country wants to phase-down production and consumption of the HFCs using “expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol and continue to include HFCs within the scope of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol for accounting and reporting of emissions”.

Keeping its domestic business interest in mind, India, at the same time, sought a transition period of 15 years, stating that the phase down of the HFCs will depend on “flexibilities in terms of choice of alternative technologies and timeframe for transitioning to safe, technically proven, energy-efficient and economically & commercially viable technologies”.

Durwood Zaelke, president of the Washington-based Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development (IGSD), said:

Prime Minister Modi is emerging as a leading climate voice on the global stage, and the India HFC proposal is concrete evidence of both his conviction and his sophistication.

The developed nations have long been demanding that the HFC to be brought under the ambit of the Montreal Protocol, which currently deals only with ozone-depleting substances.

Since HFC is not an ozone-depleting substance, it is currently listed as one of the greenhouse gases under the UNFCCC’s Kyoto Protocol, which is only binding on developed countries.

The Montreal Protocol, on the other hand, is applied to all countries including India who signed on to the protocol in 1992.

Once the amendment is accepted through negotiation, developing countries including India will also phase down the HFCs within a set timeframe.

Zaelke said:

With India emerging as the leader of the HFC phase down, we are moving into position to finish the amendment at the November Meeting of the Parties, and provide a boost to the UN climate negotiations in Paris the following month.

The Africa group of 54 countries had endorsed the HFC amendment last month, and Senegal has requested on their behalf that formal negotiations start on the amendments.

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