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India, US to discuss phasing out of hydro-fluorocarbons

New Delhi, Sep 22, 2013, DHNS:

HFCs are used in fridges and ACs, can add to global warming

India is mulling over a closed-door meeting with the US to discuss issues related to finance and technology support in phasing out hydro-fluorocarbons (HFCs)—the commonest refrigerant gas used in fridges and air conditioners—from India because of its global warming potential.

“A bilateral India-US Task Force on HFCs was established in 2011. It would be useful to convene a meeting of this task force to discuss all relevant issues related to HFCs in the bilateral context,” said Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh days before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Washington.

The root of the new politico-commercial crisis on phasing out HFCs lies in the successful Montreal Protocol that mandated phasing out of ozone-depleting refrigeration gases from all over the world and replace them with HFCs, which emerged as the coolant of choice.

But scientists have now realised even though HFCs do not destroy the ozone layer, they have a greenhouse gas with an extremely high global warming potential. They are capable of trapping enormous amounts of radiation and cause a greenhouse effect stronger than carbon dioxide.

Though HFCs currently account for only 1 per cent of greenhouse gases (GHGs), they are the fastest growing GHGs. The two biggest users of HFCs are China and India.
Environmentalists have urged Singh and US President Barack Obama to agree on protecting the climate by enacting a global phase-down of HFCs.

“President Obama and Prime Minister Singh can build on the recent G-20 agreement supporting a global phase-down of production and consumption of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol,” said Frances Beinecke, president of New York-based Natural Resources Defence Council.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chairperson R K Pachauri told Deccan Herald that there was no estimate on the kind of resources required to remove HFCs from the fridge and AC industry in India. “It is an economic, technical and political issue,” he said.

The BASIC group of nations—Brazil, South Africa, India and China—had last week signed a joint statement underlining the need for adequate financial support from developed countries for the switch.

New Delhi is understood to be under pressure from four major corporates from the US and Europe, who are lobbying for an expensive but eco-friendly gas—known as HFC 1234yf—in home appliances.

“We are discussing the issue of HFCs with the United States. While discussing it, we will not only be looking at the international understandings on HFCs that we have in the context of the UNFCCC, Rio+20, and G-20, but will also discuss this bilaterally with the US in order to develop a better mutual understanding of each other’s positions,” said the foreign secretary.

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