At Kigali climate meet, India announces domestic law to eliminate emissions of HFC-23, a super-greenhouse gas

Demonstrates serious intent to tackle climate change, says CSE

  • HFC-23 is by-product of HCFC-22, which is used in refrigeration and air conditioning. Has a global warming potential 14,800 times more than that of CO2

  • India’s new law will require five Indian manufacturers of HCFC-22 to capture and incinerate HFC-23 so that it is not released into the atmosphere. This will eliminate release of HFC-23 equivalent to about 100 million tonne of CO2 emissions in the next 15 years

  • In the ongoing negotiations at Kigali (Rwanda) on phase-out of HFCs, some developing countries, including China, are demanding financial support from developed countries for incineration of HFC-23 

  • With this legislation, India has announced to the world that it will control emissions of HFC-23 on its own. Sends a serious message about India’s efforts to lead from the front on climate change issues

Kigali (Rwanda), October 13, 2016: In a major development in the ongoing negotiations in Kigali, Rwanda to phase down hydro-fluorocarbons (HFCs), the Indian government has unveiled a domestic legislation that mandates control on the emissions of trifluoro-methane (HFC-23), which is a super greenhouse gas. HFC-23 is released as a by-product during the manufacturing of a commonly used refrigerant gas, chloro-difluoromethane (HCFC-22). The global warming potential of HFC-23 is 14,800 times more than that of CO2, making it an extremely potent greenhouse gas.

The legislation requires five Indian companies which manufacture HCFC-22 to capture and then incinerate HFC-23 so that its release into the atmosphere is eliminated. This will potentially avoid emissions of HFC-23 equivalent to 100 million tonne of CO2 over the next 15 years.

“With this domestic legislation to control the emissions of HFC-23, India is sending a strong signal to the world that it is serious about the climate change issue,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). Bhushan is attending the Kigali negotiations.

At the Kigali meeting, where final negotiations are taking place to reduce the use of HFCs, chemical industry lobbies have been trying hard to make developed countries pay for the incineration of HFC-23. With this legislation, however, India has announced to the world that it will control the emissions of HFC-23 on its own -- without any financial support from developed countries.

It is pertinent to note that these five Indian companies, along with 19 other companies which are mainly in China, have received funds and set up incinerators under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). During 2007-2013, they destroyed the gas and sold the carbon credits to developed countries under CDM. For every tonne of HFC-23 destroyed, they earned 14,800 carbon credits which translated into billions of dollars. Once the CDM mechanism was discontinued, these companies had no incentives to destroy HFC-23. 

Since the collapse of the CDM market, the levels of HFC-23 in the atmosphere have increased. This indicates that HCFC-22 industries continue to emit HFC-23. Estimates show that in the business-as-usual scenario, all the HCFC-22 manufacturing units in the world will release more than 2 billion tonne of CO2 equivalent of HFC-23 into the atmosphere by 2020. Most of this release will happen in China. However, the domestic legislation of India now ensures that the Indian companies will operate the incinerators and destroy HFC-23. 

“Asking for money to destroy HFC-23, when these companies have made so much money from it in the past, is unfair. By enacting a law to make it mandatory for the companies to destroy HFCs, India has shown leadership in dealing with HFC issue. Other developing countries should also follow suit,” said Bhushan.

For more on this, please contact Vrinda Nagar, CSE Media Resource Centre, at 9654106253/