Climate Change

MOP 28: India issues order to ban the release of HFC 23

This move will potentially avoid emissions of HFC-23 equivalent to 100 million tonne of CO2 over the next 15 years,

By Umang Jalan
Published: Thursday 13 October 2016

The global warming potential of HFC-23 is 14,800 times more than that of CO2 (Credit: iStock)

India has announced its new executive order asking five manufacturers to capture and incinerate hydroflurocarbon-23, a super greenhouse gas.

The announcement came at the sidelines of the 28th Meeting of Parties (MOP) to Montreal Protocol where parties are negotiating the phase down of hydroflurocarbons (HFCs)—gases with high global warming potential—to control climate change. The high level meeting is going on in Kigali, Rwanda.

Trifluoro-methane or HFC-23 has a global warming potential 14,800 times more than that of CO2. It is produced as a by-product during the manufacturing of a commonly used refrigerant gas, chloro-difluoromethane (HCFC-22).

India’s new order will curtail the release of HFC-23 equivalent to about 100 million tonne of CO2 over the next 15 years.  It requires the five companies—SRF limited, Gujarat Fluorocarbons Limited, Navin Fluorine International Limited, Chemplast Sanmar Limited and Hindustan Fluorocarbons Limited—to maintain and operate facilities to destroy the harmful HFC-23 gas. These companies are together responsible for almost all the production of HCFC-22 in India.

According to A N Jha, secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, this order serves to fortify India’s position on climate action and encourage other developed and developing countries producing HCFC-22 to put forward similar regulations.

China and other developing countries have demanded financial support from developed countries for incineration of HFC-23 at the Kigali meet.  

The five Indian companies, along with 19 other mainly from China, have received funds and setup incinerators under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). From 2007 to 2013, they destroyed the gas and sold the carbon credits to developed countries. Each tonne of HFC-23 destroyed earned 14,800 carbon credits, worth billions of dollars. But once the CDM was discontinued, the companies stopped incinerating HFC-23 without monetary incentive to do so.

Since the collapse of the CDM market, the levels of HFC-23 in the atmosphere have increased. This indicates that some of the HCFC-22 industries are releasing HFC-23. Estimates show that if all the HCFC-22 manufacturing units in the world do not destroy HFC-23, then they will emit more than two billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent of it by 2020. Most of this release will happen in China.

India’s domestic legislation ensures that companies will operate the incinerators and destroy HFC-23.

According to Manoj Kumar, joint secretary, MoEFCC, HCFC-22 will be used in the manufacture of new alternatives to HFCs—hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs). According to the press release issued by the government of India, the production of HCFC 22 as feedstock may reach one million tonnes at its peak and the destruction of HFC 23 from this production will lead to an emissions savings of 444 million tonnes of CO2 globally.

According to Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, Centre for Science and Environment, “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 executive order to make it mandatory for the companies to destroy HFCs, India has demonstrated leadership in dealing with HFC issue. Other developing countries should also follow suit.”

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