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India turns the heat on China over emissions

Distancing itself from China for the first time in climate talks, India has decided to put pressure on Beijing to take the lead in phasing down use of Hydrofluorocarbons

india Updated: Oct 10, 2016 14:08 IST
Tourists exit the Forbidden City on a day with high levels of air pollution in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 3, 2016.
Tourists exit the Forbidden City on a day with high levels of air pollution in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. (AP Photo)

Distancing itself from China for the first time in climate talks, India has decided to put pressure on Beijing to take the lead in phasing down use of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

The departure from the previous position — in which India and China together bargained with the developed world to protect the interests of developing countries — has come during the ongoing global meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, where 197 countries are finalising a deal under the Montreal Protocol to stop uses of HFCs.

Used as refrigerants and in air conditioners, some HFC gases are considered to have 12,000-15,000 times more global warming potential than that of CO2. A complete phase out of HFCs by 2050 can avoid a 0.5 degree Celsius warming of the planet by 2100. Highlighting that China accounts for more than 60% of the HFC consumption in the developing world, Indian negotiators in Kigali, decided on Saturday, to propose three different timelines — one each for the developed countries, China and developing countries — for phasing down HFCs.

As per the proposal if developed countries agree to freeze their HFC use in 2016 at the 2012-15 levels of consumption and China agrees to freeze it at the 2020-22 consumption levels then India and other developing countries can consider freezing HFC use at the 2025-27 levels.

India had proposed, in June, that it would freeze the use of HFCs in 2031 at the 2028-30 levels of consumption but the US had been pressurising India to push its schedule ahead. Phasing down of HFCs was high on agenda in the Indo-US joint statement during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to US in June and US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to India in August.

heat over super pollutions
Major players in Kigali summit and where they stand
  • US
    Hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) share: 25% of global production, 37% of the consumption. It imports large amounts of HFCs from China Phase down proposal: Reduce the HFC consumption to 70% of the 2011-13 levels by 2030
  • INDIA
    HFC share: 2.32% of global production and 1.6% of global consumption
    Phase down proposal: Reduce consumption to 2028-30 levels by 2031
    Pressures on India: China wants India to join it with a baseline of 2020-22
  • CHINA
    HFC share: 57% of global production, 23% of consumption
    Phase down proposal: Proposed to reduce HFC consumption to 2019-25 levels by 2026
    India’s proposal: China should take the lead with 2020-22 baseline

While the US and China together account for 60% of global HFC consumption and more than 80% of the production capacity, India’s share in global HFC consumption and production right now is 1.6% and 2.32% respectively. According to the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, it would cost Rs 90,000 crore to India to completely eliminate HFCs by 2050 as per the timeline proposed by it in June. Pushing the schedule ahead would require more money.

Experts say, India has taken a proactive stance at the talks by being open to push its schedule ahead from earlier baselines. “This will avoid the risk of India getting isolated at the meeting and push the developed world to be ambitious,” said an Indian negotiator.

“This is the ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ in the true sense. China produces maximum HFC and takes away the maximum share of financial support provided by developed countries for carrying out transition to cleaner technologies. It can no longer hide behind the back of developing countries,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of CSE.