India in HFC talks U-turn but “asking for a lot”, say experts

Published 13:24 on April 17, 2015  /  Last updated at 13:24 on April 17, 2015  /  Asia Pacific, Climate Talks, International, Other APAC  /  No Comments

India has said it is open to negotiating a phase-down of HFCs, reversing its previous stance, but it wants both full compensation for efforts and any abatement in around 150 developing countries including itself and China to begin 16 years from now.

India has said it is open to negotiating a phase-down of HFCs, reversing its previous stance, but it wants both full compensation for efforts and any abatement in around 150 developing countries including itself and China to begin 16 years from now.

In an amendment proposal submitted ahead of Montreal Protocol talks in Bangkok next week, India has suggested developing countries freeze their HFC production and consumption levels in 2031, using a baseline calculated from the average between 2028 and 2030, then cut them to 15% of that by 2050.

It said the 16-year “grace period” between now and 2031 will ensure the availability of “safe, technically proven, energy efficient, environment friendly, economically viable, commercially available, matured non-HFC technologies”.

India, the world’s third biggest emitter after China and the US, said its offer is in exchange for compensation for any lost profits from the closure of HFC facilities, as well as full conversion costs for its industry to move to cleaner alternatives.

“This is a huge step forward as up to now India had not been willing to negotiate, but their proposal is problematic because with no immediate abatement these countries can expand their HFC production over the next 15 years, and then expect countries to pay to convert those industries,” said Clare Perry of the Environmental Investigation Agency.

“It actually incentivises (these countries’) HFC industries to grow further.”

The move appears to be part of efforts by India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi to shed India’s obstructionist reputation on climate change issues.

Modi wants to build India’s renewable energy industry, but at the same time has scolded India’s climate critics including developed countries, and has warned that the country will “set the agenda” at this year’s UN climate talks in Paris.

“ASKING FOR A LOT”

India had been accused of hindering previous HFC phase-down negotiations, insisting that reductions be addressed under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol instead of the often-praised 1987 Montreal Protocol, which has successfully curbed ozone depleting gases such as CFCs.

Kyoto places a heavier abatement burden on developed countries under its principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” (CBDR).

The Montreal Protocol, which sought alternatives to CFCs, has led to a massive expansion of the HFC industry, prompting countries to slowly turn their focus those highly-potent greenhouse gases.

India’s proposal also calls for developed nations to share their HFC abatement technology including intellectual property rights. This area is a sticking point for rich countries such as the US, whose companies including Honeywell and Dupont aim to profit from selling the HFC alternatives they have developed.

Perry said that while some of India’s demands are already included in the Montreal Protocol’s Multilateral Fund (MLF), which helps poorer countries scale-down their HFC industries, others are not.

“They are asking for a lot, including expansion of the industry and more money. The MLF doesn’t pay for full costs or compensate into the future. India wants their HFC industry compensated in every way,” she said, noting that the level of the demands perhaps wasn’t unexpected with talks resuming next week.

The UN estimates that the transition away from HFCs could cost poorer countries more than $3 billion – well above the roughly $500 million pledged so far by the developed world.

India’s proposal lists 19 types of HFCs, with are used mainly in refrigerators, air conditioners and some industrial equipment. It says they have global warming potentials of between 4 times and 12,400 times that of carbon dioxide.

The proposal also suggests rich countries face a similar type of gradual phase-down, with average output of 2013-2015 levels frozen in 2016 and cut by 85% by 2035. This is along the lines of efforts proposed by the developed world.

The EU last year passed a law to cut HFC use by 79% below average 2009-2012 levels by 2030. The G20 has also agreed to cooperate in reducing their use of the gas.

By Mike Szabo – mike@carbon-pulse.com