A draft text of a ministerial decision on the controversial phasing out of refrigerant and global warming gases – hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – circulating in the negotiations stirred debate on late Friday night on how the talks would progress over the week when the ministers from more than 130 countries gather at the National Stadium to thrash out compromises that require political guidance.
The source of the text, which was also accessed by The Hindu, could not be ascertained. The operative part of the on page text said that the countries should agree to adopting “appropriate measures under the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer to progressively reduce the production and consumption of HFCs, based on, inter alia, an examination of economically viable and technically feasible alternatives, and to continue to include HFCs within the scope of the convention and its Kyoto Protocol for accounting and reporting of emissions.”
In other words, it asked the countries to decide at the Warsaw meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that it would agree to let the global warming gas be dealt with under the Montreal Protocol, which deals with ozone-depleting substances so far and does not have the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities enshrined in it.
This is a controversial move that India, China and several other countries had successfully opposed at a recent meeting of the Montreal Protocol. While it’s a proposal that has had the backing of the US, the EU and number of other developing and developed countries, it turned controversial especially this year. First there was a G20 declaration to which India and China – two of the fastest growing markets for refrigerant gases – signed up taking them a step closer to the HFC phase out under Montreal Protocol. Then on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Washington, the US pulled all stops to get him to sign on the dotted line for a faster decision on the phase out under Montreal Protocol. The diplomatic hard ball back-fired for the US, with India warning that the costs of transition and issues of control of alternative technology by few US-based companies had not been resolved. India stepped back and soon when the Montreal Protocol meeting happened in October it was able to block any hasty decision on this along with China, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Indonesia and about 10 other countries.
They warned that the technology was untested, extremely costly and in the hands of the few and the proposal would make India and China jump to costlier alternatives in time even as the developed world did a slow phase down of the gas.
Failed at the Montreal Protocol, the developed countries and their other allies promised to reopen the subject at the Warsaw climate convention talks. The EU pushed from the early days at the negotiations without finding traction at the negotiators level. The five days of negotiations did not see any give in from the developing countries.
Now this text has emerged on Friday night sending the developing countries that are opposed to the move as well as about how contentious issues would be dealt with in the high-level segment scurrying for consultations.
A negotiator from the Like-Minded Developing Country Group, who had seen the draft ministerial decision, told The Hindu, “While the origins of the text cannot be ascertained we know which parties are insistent on a decision on HFCs at Warsaw. It would be unfortunate if such drafts will emerge out of nowhere on contentious issues and suddenly find their way on to the tables before the ministers.”
He added, “So far we have seen Poland act as a presidency (head and hosts of the negotiations) should. We hope that no one resorts to non-transparent measures in the second week of negotiations either or the lack of trust in the process would only deepen.”
There have been incidents in the previous years too when the hosts tried to either clobber an agreement despite lack of consensus or by springing up draft agreements at the ministers on short notice. The attempts have been successful at times and failed on others but usually led to a lack of faith between the large country blocks over the years.
Delegates from three countries in the G77+China countries that The Hindu contacted said they had not seen the draft text but had heard of it and some of their partners had been sounded out about the need for a discussion on the matter later on Friday night or over the weekend to strategise and be prepared for any surprises next week.