With India ratifying the world's first comprehensive climate agreement earlier this month, another global treaty that eventually aims to phase out a heat-trapping substance — hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs — and replace them with climate-friendly alternatives, will require India's leadership role, say environmentalists.
Ahead of the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate change, which is set to take place on 4 November, the 28th meeting of the Parties to the 1989 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer will be held in Rwandan capital Kigali from 10 to 14 October to freeze an agreement as early as 2025-26 to eventually eliminate the use of HFCs, commonly used in air-conditioners.
"We're looking to India and other world leaders to show greater flexibility on reaching an amendment to phase down HFCs," Nehmat Kaur, who is India representative of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told IANS.
"There is an economic case for countries, including India, to advance its time frame for the phase-down. The new $80 million dollar fund is a strong signal for early action. Things are looking positive for a strong and ambitious amendment this week," she added.
However, an official with the Union Environment Ministry hinted that India, which has not opened its cards so far, may advance its deadline to phase out HFCs.
"India might advance the time frame during negotiations for phasing out HFCs to somewhere like 2025-26, instead of the previous deadline of 2031, if the developed nations pledge adequate funding to the developing nations, including India, for research and development of low global warming potential alternatives," said the official.
For smooth transition to developing new technologies indigenously, there is a huge financial burden on India — both for the industry and the consumers, the official added.
At the Meeting of the Parties, nearly 200 countries, including India, will try to negotiate on separate deadlines for the developed and developing nations to phase out HFCs.
Experts say though HFCs — the refrigeration and air-conditioning coolants — do not harm the ozone layer, but have a high global warming potential.
Their elimination will ultimately help avoiding an up to 0.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperature by the end of the century and will significantly contribute towards the global goal of staying well below two degrees.
"Expectations are high that the Montreal Protocol can live up to its reputation as the world's most effective environmental treaty. Ambitious political will from all countries is now needed to get the best agreement possible," an official statement quoting Clare Perry, climate campaign leader at London's Environmental Investigation Agency, said.
Ahead of the Kigali meet, India has put forward its own proposal for an amendment that mainly advocates adequate funding for research and development to the developing nations for smooth technological transition without any delay.
In India, it will cost 12 billion euros (Rs 90,000 crore) to shift from HFCs to the greener gases between 2015 and 2050, the New Delhi-based think-tank Council on Energy, Environment and Water said on 27 September.
"India would seek an equitable agreement in Kigali that is in the best interests of the nation, its people, as well as the larger global community," Union Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave has been quoted as saying.
Officials of the Environment Ministry say India will advocate for adequate multilateral funds for the developing countries for smooth and speedy technological transition at the Montreal Protocol talks.
Special Secretary in the ministry RR Rashmi gave an indication in this regard on September 27, who said: "There are different estimates as to what it will cost to make the switch. But, we must emphasise in Kigali that the commitment of donor countries has to be absolute and this assurance is necessary to fulfil any commitments India makes."
In the July negotiations in Vienna, over 100 countries opted to freeze HFC growth by 2021. China, the world's largest HFC producer, suggested starting the freeze in 2025 or 2026, while India advocated 2031.
In 2013, India's consumption of HFCs, which are up to 10,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide and are the fastest-growing greenhouse gases in the world, was 1.6 percent of the global consumption.
Ahead of the Kigali negotiations, 19 global foundations together contributed $53 million and other $27 million came from a few countries for the multilateral fund to be used for smooth transition from HFCs by the developing nations and directed towards energy efficiency efforts.
Corporate giant Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Co Ltd is the only Indian company that funds donations for the multilateral fund.
Eleven senators, in a missive to US Secretary of State John Kerry on 7 October, said: "A successful agreement negotiated in Kigali is critical to help meet the goals agreed to in Paris, and we encourage you to take advantage of this important opportunity to create a more sustainable future."
The Montreal Protocol was designed to protect the ozone layer by reducing the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances. It was agreed to on 16 September 1987, and entered into force on 1 January 1989.
Since then it has banned the use of several ozone-depleting substances, including chlorofluorocarbons, a substitute to HFCs.