Sticking to its stand, New Delhi says HFCs must be dealt within UNFCCC talks, not under Montreal Protocol’

Sticking to its stance of not allowing phase-out of climate changing refrigerant gases under the Montreal Protocol at this juncture, India continued to block the move at the ongoing meeting of the multilateral agreement in Bangkok.

India has opposed bringing control of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) — a family of greenhouse gases used as refrigerants — under the Montreal Protocol, which is meant to deal only with ozone-depleting gases.

Recently India came in for diplomatic arm-twisting by the U.S. to let that happen in the run-up to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with President Barack Obama. Having softened its stance on the issue at the G20 talks, the Indian government had to take a step back later in bilateral meetings with the U.S.

The U.S. demanded that India agree to set up a ‘contact group’ on HFCs in the Montreal Protocol, which would effectively kick-start the process of dealing with the gases out of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where the gases are currently handled and developed countries are required in principle to pay full costs for technology transitions.

The Indian government had internally expressed apprehensions that Indian industry would be pushed to buy proprietary technology from companies in the U.S. and elsewhere at a very high cost to make the transition without adequate financial support.

In a rear-guard action, India settled for holding an early meeting of a bilateral task force on the matter with the U.S. but not changing its stance before that. A source in the Indian negotiating team on the issue told The Hindu, “We have asked the U.S. to provide us data and information on the economics of making the technological shift but as yet they have not come back with the information.”

He added, “Unless there is clarity on the costs and technological changes involved at the bilateral task force, we cannot expect our position to change.”

With the bilateral task force yet to decide on the way forward, the Indian government has decided to stick to its original stance that HFCs be dealt within UNFCCC negotiations and not be exported to the Montreal Protocol.

At the Bangkok meeting, India, along with some allies, including China and Brazil, blocked the long-standing proposal to amend the Montreal Protocol, permitting it to deal with HFCs. As the protocol works by consensus, each country’s consent is mandatory to pass such a proposal. India also blocked other proposals, including one from the European Union, which would indirectly open the forum to talks on HFCs within the Protocol.

The diplomatic battle at the Bangkok meeting saw India pitch hard against the U.S. and several other countries that were keen on getting discussions on HFCs launched within the Protocol.

At the time of our going to press, negotiations were continuing in Bangkok with countries considering yet another proposal of asking for a technical and economic analysis to be generated under the protocol on HFCs — another opening of window in the direction the U.S. and others have desired.