India hostility to HFC phase-out thaws, submits plans to UN

Analysts hail historic shift in tone as Modi government accepts need to radically cut use of “super greenhouse gases”

Pic: Flickr/NiallKennedy

Pic: Flickr/NiallKennedy

By Ed King

In signs India’s hostility to cutting greenhouse gas emissions is thawing, the government has delivered plans to the UN on how potent warming gases used in refrigeration could be curbed. 

On Thursday the government submitted an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to allow it to curb the use of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gases, which are far more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

“The proposal is intended to support overall global efforts aimed at climate system protection,” it reads.

The submission calls for a 15 year period of transition for developing countries to find replacements to HFCs – which are used in air conditioning, fridges and insulating foams.

Cutting these would be equal to stopping the release of 100 billion tonnes of CO2 tonnes by 2050 say experts.

Countries that need help should be assisted in sourcing “economically viable” and “environmentally friendly” alternatives, it said, stressing the importance of “flexibilities” for national governments.

Only last year Delhi was fiercely opposed to using the Protocol to phase out HFCs, preferring to keep discussions under the UN’s main climate change body.

That hostility has faded, the change in part credited to US diplomacy under president Barack Obama, who has worked hard in recent meetings with prime minister Modi to reach a compromise on HFCs.

Report: India and China agree to discuss HFC cuts

Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development and a close observer of HFC talks said the move was “concrete evidence” that Modi was taking the threat of climate change seriously.

“Success with the HFC amendment will provide the biggest, fastest, cheapest, and most reliable climate mitigation in the near-term,” he said.

“It also will build critical momentum for a successful outcome in Paris for the climate negotiations in December, and complement what is expected to be an agreement where all countries participate by pledging to attack climate pollutants at their own pace.”

Coming days before negotiators are set to meet in Bangkok for HFC talks, the news could ensure real progress ahead of Paris, said Avipsa Mahapatra, an analyst with the Environmental Investigation Agency.

“It is a clear signal that there has been significant political progress on the issue of HFCs, and instead of questioning if HFCs should be addressed under the Protocol, countries are now trying to answer how to address them.”

The Africa group of 54 countries endorsed its own HFC amendment last month, calling for formal negotiations to start.

Next week the European Union is also expected to submit its own proposals for HFC phase out.

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