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India - the new global warming villain

Oliver Tickell

25th October 2013

India has blocked progress on an agreement to reduce emissions of the HFC super-powerful greenhouse gases.

We're struggling to understand how a commitment by Prime Minister Singh barely a month ago has not translated into concrete action in Bangkok.

The Indian Government has single-handedly blocked progress on an agreement to reduce emissions of the super-powerful greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). 

The G20 - which includes India as the world's tenth largest economy - resolved in September to phase down the consumption and production of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol, the international treaty which has successfully slashed emissions of ozone eating CFCs. But in the 25th meeting of the Montreal Protocol in Bangkok, which ended today, India deliberately blocked detailed discussions of the HFC-reduction proposals.

A global phase-down of HFCs would mitigate the equivalent of at least 100 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2050 - an enormous prize for the global climate. After years of deadlock, support for global action on HFCs gathered pace during 2013.

In March the Arctic Council called for a phase-down of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol. In September the G20 leaders agreed a positive statement at the St Petersburg summit. Two separate presidential agreements between China and US followed in June and September. And most recently Presidents Manmohan Singh and Obama establish a task force to resolve issues surrounding an HFC phase-down.

Clare Perry, Senior Campaigner at the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), is mystified by India's obstructive behaviour. "In signaling their willingness to address HFCs in various high-level fora this year, global leaders have made an important statement of intent", she said.

"Unfortunately there was scant evidence of this from India in Bangkok this week. We're struggling to understand how a commitment by Prime Minister Singh barely a month ago has not translated into concrete action in Bangkok."

But all is not lost. Most Parties demonstrated their clear support for a global agreement to tackle HFC production and consumption, including the entire group of African countries. And in the late hours of the meeting, the Parties agreed that the Montreal Protocol’s technical and economic panel should prepare a report looking at the economic costs and environmental benefits of various scenarios of avoiding HFCs. 

The HFC issue will also be discussed again at the international climate conference (COP19) scheduled to take place in Warsaw, Poland in November this year.

The EIA's Mark Roberts said: "The Montreal Protocol is the most efficient and cost-effective path forward for stopping the massive growth of these greenhouse gases that are thousands of times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide."

 

 

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