US, China to work together on phasing down HFCs

India cautious in response; to disclose stand in Bangkok end of June

By Indrajit Bose
Published: Tuesday 11 June 2013

The US and China will work together to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the White House said in a statement on June 8. Under the arrangement as it stands now, the two countries will use the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the consumption and production of HFCs. The accounting and reporting of HFC emissions will continue to happen under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

This is a surprise move as India and China had so far been on the same page on the matter of HFCs. The US, Canada and Mexico, supported by other developed countries, had earlier proposed moving discussions on HFCs to Montreal Protocol. India and China have consistently opposed this amendment since 2009 since HFCs are greenhouse gases and the mandate of the Montreal Protocol is to discuss only ozone depleting substances. Now, even as the amendment proposal sits idle, the US and China reached an understanding to wind down HFC use at the first summit between Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping.

India cautious to respond

During the climate talks that concluded in Bonn in early May, India’s voice was loud and clear as it reiterated its position against discussing HFCs under Montreal Protocol. But where does this US-China development leave India?

Claiming no prior knowledge that such a development was in the offing, an official from the environment ministry said, “There is no agreement yet. These are only discussions. We will have to further discuss this in depth and then firm up our position.”

The amendment proposal on HFCs will be discussed at a forthcoming Montreal Protocol meeting in Bangkok between June 24 and June 30, 2013. India, so far cautious in its response to the US-China development, is expected to disclose which side of the fence it is on.

EU is excited about the decision of the US and China  to collaborate on the issue of HFCs. At the ongoing climate talks in Bonn, EU said it was pleased to hear about the development and that it is keen to take this up with India.

Meanwhile, HFCs continue to grow rapidly. According to the White House press release, if left unabated, use of HFCs as replacements for chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)—ozone-depleting substances that are being phased out under the Montreal Protocol—could grow to nearly 20 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

It is the US, however, which is the largest consumer of HFCs. China, on the other hand, is the largest producer of HFCs. As long as the deal employs harmless alternatives in the air conditioning and refrigeration sectors, it will benefit global climate.

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