As Paris meeting on Montreal Protocol draws to a close today, deadlock on HFCs continues

 CSE proposes a way out of the logjam; makes a presentation at the Paris summit

  • 34th session of the Open-ended Working Group under Montreal Protocol ends in Paris today. Debate on management of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – whether they can be discussed under the Protocol and how they can be phased out

  • In Paris, countries do not budge from their respective positions on HFCs. India does not want to discuss them under Montreal Protocol

  • HFCs are greenhouse gases, and cause thousand times more global warming than carbon dioxide

  • Majority of HFC emissions is in developed countries; developing countries have just started to use HFCs 

  • CSE presents a proposal to break the logjam: Recommends developed countries should phase out HFCs quickly and help developing countries leapfrog to climate-friendly technology

  • Says differentiation between developed and developing countries should stay. The principle of equity, as established by UNFCCC, should underpin all negotiations on this issue in the Protocol

  • CSE also recommends that government of India starts discussing HFCs under the Montreal Protocol. The refusal of India to address HFCs is helping energy inefficient and climate polluting industries. It is also retarding the growth of energy-efficient and climate-friendly alternatives like hydrocarbons in refrigeration and air conditioning sectors.   

New Delhi, July 18, 2014: Should hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) be discussed under Montreal Protocol? This question continues to divide the international community on the closing day of the 34th session of the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) under the Protocol. The meeting has been going on in Paris, France, since July 11.

HFCs are greenhouse gases. Like carbon dioxide, they cause global warming – only that a tonne of HFC causes thousand times more global warming than a tonne of carbon dioxide. There is a concern that increased consumption and emissions of HFCs from refrigerators and air-conditioners, where they are used as refrigerant gases, will lead to more global warming. Presently, 80 per cent of all HFC emissions happen from developed countries; developing countries have just started phasing in HFCs in their refrigeration and air conditioning (RAC) sectors. 

What is the HFC tug-of-war all about?
HFCs are substitute for chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) that cause the ozone hole. Montreal Protocol was signed to reduce the use of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) like CFCs and HCFCs. Developed countries have already phased out CFCs and HCFCs and have moved to HFCs. Developing countries have phased out CFCs and are in the process of phasing out HCFCs; they have started to use HFCs. So, the phasing out of ODS in Montreal Protocol is leading to a phasing in of HFCs -- which is causing more global warming.  

Developed countries, supported by many developing countries, want to discuss and phase down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol, whereas some developing countries like India, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia want to discuss HFCS under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is discussing global warming. To do this, in Paris, the US along with Micronesia has put out proposal to amend the Montreal Protocol. India has opposed this amendment in Paris.

In this tug-of-war, the industries of both the developed and developing countries have made billions by selling patented technologies. The fluorinated gas industry first sold CFCs, then HCFCs, then HFCs and now they have found another alternative HFOs. HFOs are fourth generation of chemicals being sold by multinational companies like DuPont and Honeywell as non-ODS and non-global warming chemical. There is an interest of these companies to sell HFOs as a substitute to HFCs. But there was always a green technology that these companies didn’t allow to come in the market – hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons like Butane and Propane are ozone and climate friendly. Most importantly, they are also highly energy efficient. Presently, the most energy efficient refrigerators and air conditioners sold in Indian market is hydrocarbon based.

Says Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of CSE and head of its climate change team: “It is clear that it is the interest of India to leapfrog from HCFCs to natural refrigerants like hydrocarbons and not go to HFCs. Hydrocarbons are not patented technologies, they are energy efficient and climate friendly. Most importantly, they allow Indian industry to develop their own energy-efficient technologies and grow.”

What CSE proposed in Paris
Chandra Bhushan represented CSE at the Paris summit and presented a set of proposals aimed at breaking the deadlock.

• India should agree to discuss HFC management, finance and technology – and not the US amendment proposal -- under the Montreal Protocol. HFCs are currently included under a basket of gases covered by the UNFCCC. However, the approach used under UNFCCC is not suitable to phase-down of these gases. For example, a market-based approach such as the Clean Development Mechanism under the UNFCCC has failed to effectively reduce emissions owing to various loopholes in the carbon market. The Montreal Protocol, with its phase-down mechanism, makes up for the lack of certainty and clarity in the UNFCCC approach and gives clear signals to business and other stakeholders for an effective reduction of HFC emissions. Under the Montreal Protocol, the developed countries pay “incremental costs” to developing countries to phase-out gases

• India should break the chemical treadmill and leapfrog from flourinated gases to natural gases like hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons have low global warming potential and they can make refrigerators and air-conditioners more energy-efficient.

• As most of the HFC emissions are from developed countries, they must phase out HFCs quickly to allow for penetration and development of alternative technologies like solar cooling, absorption cooling and heat pumps.

• The finance and technology transfer mechanism under the Montreal Protocol needs to be redesigned to allow developed countries to leapfrog to advanced and efficient technologies. Only phasing out HFCs is not sufficient; it must also address energy efficiency and alternative technologies.

• Differentiation between developed and developing countries should stay. The principle of equity, as established by UNFCCC, should underpin all negotiations on this issue in the Montreal Protocol.

For more on this, please contact Souparno Banerjee at / 9910864339.

For Chandra Bhushan’s presentation in Paris: