Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

India Takes Lead on Key Climate Strategy

Proposes phasing down HFCs under Montreal Protocol

Can provide powerful mitigation, and momentum for Paris climate negotiations

16 April 2015 – Today India made a formal proposal to amend the Montreal Protocol to phase down the super greenhouse gas, HFCs, used primarily as refrigerants and to make insulating foams, reversing several years of opposition that only began to thaw after the election of Prime Minister Modi.

“Prime Minister Modi is emerging as a leading climate voice on the global stage, and the India HFC proposal is concrete evidence of both his conviction and his sophistication,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development.

Prime Minister Modi and President Obama discussed the need to phase down HFCs for the extraordinary climate protection this would provide the world, first during their meeting at the White House and again in Delhi at the Republic Day celebration earlier this year.

President Obama has also taken the lead in bilateral negotiations on HFCs with President Xi in China, and won his support as well.  The US, with Canada and Mexico, submitted its own version of a proposed HFC amendment earlier this week.

The Africa group, representing 54 countries, endorsed the HFC phase down under the Montreal Protocol at their ministerial meeting in Cairo in March, with Senegal championing the effort.  Senegal has since requested that formal negotiations begin on the HFC proposals.

“Success with the HFC amendment will provide the biggest, fastest, cheapest, and most reliable climate mitigation in the near-term,” added Zaelke.  “It also will build critical momentum for a successful outcome in Paris for the climate negotiations in December, and complement what is expected to be an agreement where all countries participate by pledging to attack climate pollutants at their own pace.”

The HFC phase down can provide mitigation equivalent to 100 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2050 and avoid up to 0.5°C of warming by end of century.  Fast implementation of an HFC amendment can add the equivalent to up to 64 billion tonnes of CO2 more.  A simultaneous effort to embrace super-efficient appliances in India, including room air conditioners, can effectively double the climate mitigation from phasing down HFCs, according to an analysis by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.  “The analysis shows that moving to super-efficient room air conditioners can save enough electricity to avoid building up to 120 medium sized power plants in the next 15 years,” said Zaelke.

All UN countries are parties to the Montreal Protocol, making it the only treaty with universal membership.  Over the 28 years of the treaty’s operation, it has already solved a significant part of climate change by phasing out other fluorinated gases, including CFCs and HCFCs.

The Montreal Protocol parties are holding an extra-ordinary meeting in Bangkok next week.  A second meeting will be held in late July in Paris, and the final Meeting of the Parties will be in UAE the first week of November.

IGSD’s Primer on HFC is here.