Environment Minister Anil Dave has said India will no longer permit the release of HFC-23, a family of potent greenhouse gases, released when local companies produce the refrigerant HCFC-22.
Mr. Dave is at Kigali, Rwanda, in the midst of thrashing out a deal with the developed countries to amend the Montreal Protocol, a 1987 agreement whereby countries have agreed to limit the emission of gases that destroy the ozone layer.
The latest amendment is to discuss the phasing out of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs, of which HFC-23 is one), only beginning to be used in India and still used in the developed countries and once a replacement for the ozone-destroying gases. Over the years, HFCs were found to be exacerbating global warming.
The Kigali talks will also discuss the years by which the developing and the developed countries will cap HFC emissions and switch to a new suite of gases that cause less global warming and become the mainstay of home and car air-conditioners and industrial cooling solutions.
No compensation Moreover, Indian companies will not be compensated for the costs involved in ensuring that these gases are not released. India’s Environment Ministry has said this was a “… major break away from the concept of financial assistance for every action on environment, in which India has taken the lead ….,” though strictly speaking the handful of Indian companies responsible for HFC-23 emissions (that are released in the production of HCFC-22) benefited substantially in previous years from carbon credits.
Independent analysts told The Hindu that India’s move was “well-timed” in that it set a conducive environment for all countries to arrive at an equitable deal on Friday or Saturday, when the Kigali deliberations are expected to conclude. India’s announcement was low-hanging fruit that would not be a burden to Indian industries.
“Today’s announcement hasn’t in anyway compromised India’s negotiating position,” said Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, Council on Energy, Environment and Water, a research organisation that works on issues around the phase-out of refrigerants. “We still would like to know how to deal with the cost of switching over from HFCs and the baseline and freeze years.” These refer to a range of years 2024-2026 by which India would peak production of HFC gases. Production and consumption of HFCs in India are only around 2.32 and 1.89 per cent of world production and consumption. But HFCs are expected to grow exponentially in India, as the housing and the transport sectors expand. Rich countries, which are already using these gases, have been pushing for a while for a transition out of HFCs for themselves and move to cleaner options by developing countries.