What India's move to cleaner gases means for global climate action plan

Published on Aug 19, 2021 10:43 PM IST

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol has the potential to avoid 0.5°C of warming of the atmosphere by the end of the century by phasing out hydrofluorocarbons.

Ratification of Kigali Amendment to Montreal Protocol signify that India is ready to compete in the market for low-global warming potential and climate-friendly refrigerants, which would spur domestic innovation and attract international investments.(Bloomberg)
Ratification of Kigali Amendment to Montreal Protocol signify that India is ready to compete in the market for low-global warming potential and climate-friendly refrigerants, which would spur domestic innovation and attract international investments.(Bloomberg)
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

India ratified the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer on Wednesday, paving the way for phasing down on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a group of warming gases a thousand times more potent than carbon dioxide.

HFCs are harmful greenhouse gases, used in air-conditioners and refrigerators, as an alternative to ozone-depleting gases hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol has the potential to avoid 0.5°C of warming of the atmosphere by the end of the century. India’s ratification follows a similar move by China and the United States earlier this year and will be the 123rd ratification of the important treaty amendment.

Given India's commitment to play a constructive role in climate action, the Union Cabinet's decision is a step towards New Delhi advancing its targets to mitigate the effects of climate change, ahead of the United Nations climate change conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland in October this year.

“India’s Kigali Amendment ratification is among the most significant of any country, and brings us to the cusp of universal ratification among the world’s biggest economies," remarked Alex Hillbrand, an HFC expert at Natural Resources Defense Council, that is working on the global phase-down of global warming-potential gases.

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India is one of the first countries in the world to launch a cooling action plan in 2019. The plan is linked to the economic growth and need for cooling and refrigeration over the next few decades. This comprehensive plan is aimed at reducing cooling demand, enabling refrigerant transition, enhancing energy efficiency and better technology options with a 20-year time horizon. The signing of the Kigali Amendment is a cue for the markets to make a faster transition from HFCs to cleaner gases.

Professor S N Tripathi, the head of civil engineering, department at IIT Kanpur, and a member of the steering committee of environment ministry's National Clean Air Programme, said, “The Montreal Protocol had realised the need for phasing out HFCs which were responsible for the depletion of the Ozone layer. The tireless efforts that led to the Kigali Amendment have resulted in the agreement of phasing out the HFCs in a timebound manner. Many HFCs have very high global warming potential. India’s ratification of the Kigali amendment is a welcome decision that will collectively help avoid 0.5°C, which is a significant climate co-benefit.”

Even as India is not obliged to begin phasing down HFCs before 2028, the ratification would offer clarity to air-conditioning and refrigeration industries to develop more efficient and climate-friendly cooling technologies.

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A fact sheet from The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC) India ratifying the Kigali Amendment is an advantage for the country in itself as it would boost domestic manufacturing and employment generation goals.

The ratification would signify that India is ready to compete in the market for low-global warming potential GWP (climate-friendly) refrigerants, which will spur domestic innovation and attract international investments.

"India has exemplified its climate leadership by ratifying the Kigali Amendment. There is a big opportunity for the country to be on course for an early phasedown of HFCs, through domestic innovation, which would also make the Indian industry globally competitive in climate-friendly cooling products. India's move fits in well with its plan for a green recovery, as we build back better," said Prima Madan, the lead consultant of energy efficiency and cooling, at NRDC in India.

Not only that but the decision would pave way for India to achieve its climate change mitigation goals and cooling commitments. India is among a small group of countries on track to meet its climate commitments under the Paris Agreement.

The latest IPCC report on climate change, released last week, portrayed a grim scenario. It cautioned that the 1.5°C global warming threshold is likely to be breached in the next 10-to-20 years in all emission scenarios, including the one where carbon dioxide emissions decline.

India's ratification of the Kigali Amendment would put New Delhi in a position of strength at the Montreal Protocol. It would help bolster India’s efforts to establish smart policies and bylaws, including on energy efficiency, while phasing down HFCs.

A senior programme lead at Council on Energy, Environment and Water, Shikha Bhasin called the ratification of the Kigali Amendment before its peaking year a "feather in India’s cooling and climate cap" ahead of COP26 this year.

"It’s the right signal to ensure low-GWP and alternative cooling technologies’ deployment not just in one of the world’s largest cooling markets, but also for several countries around the world considering climate actions in this pivotal year," she said.

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India has been moving forward with implementing the India Cooling Action Plan, which sets domestic targets for cooling efficiency and refrigerants, but they may not be enough by themselves for India to meet Kigali timelines. The ratification would help lay a clear policy framework to prevent imports that utilise highly potent (high-GWP) HFCs, such as R-134a, R410a, and R-404a.

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