India has agreed to a US proposal to phase out refrigerating coolants called hydroflourocarbons (HFCs) under the Montreal Protocol on the condition that rich countries pay the entire cost of the transition by 2050, a move that could lead to an increase in cost of refrigeration services.
The move was surprising as India had for long insisted that phasing out of climate change-inducing HFC should be discussed under the climate convention and not the Montreal Protocol, which was for ozone-depleting substances.
“India’s proposal is refreshing as it has come to the negotiating table on the potent greenhouse gases to which it was earlier opposed,” said Clare Perry, head of climate at the Environment Investigation Agency. “It is a major opportunity to begin negotiations on the most immediate, cost-effective and tangible global measure to address climate change.”
India’s proposal in-principle agrees with the US suggestion of providing the developing world 15 more years than the developed world to replace the refrigerating coolant with more planet-friendly substances such as hydrofluoroolefin (HFO), patented by two US-based companies DuPont, and hydrocarbon (HC).
The Indian proposal prescribes the phasing out process from 2016 onwards by putting a HFC production cap on rich nations by 2016 and complete phase out by them by 2035. It also provides a roadmap for complete phase out by developing world till 2050.
HFC was introduced in the 1990s under the Montreal Protocol to replace ozone-depleting cooling gases called chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) but in the next 15 years HFC proved to be a major climate change-inducing gas, whose emissions have been rising at a rate of 15% every year. By 2050, it is estimated that one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions would be from HFCs.
In September 2014, India changed its stand on HFC after US President Barack Obama convinced Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the developing world will get money for phase out if the issue was discussed under the Montreal Protocol.
The Indian refrigerating industry says the move could have huge cost implications as replacement for HFCs are patented by a few companies. Moreover, industries associated with cooling — automobiles, home appliances and buildings — will have to replace their entire manufacturing line to introduce a new technology that many say is still untested.