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Insights into Editorial: Cooling the planet: Cutting HFC-use good; new challenges to ozone emerging

 

Context:

India will now enter the 26th Conference of Parties, scheduled in November at Glasgow on a strong climate-leadership footing, having ratified the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on August 19.

Recently, The Union Cabinet has given its approval for ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer for phase down of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by India.

HFCs are on average several thousand times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Phasing down HFCs, which are used in cooling appliances, insulating foams and more is expected to avoid close to 0.5º C of warming by the end of the century and achieve a nearly 90% reduction in global warming resulting from unconstrained HFC use.

Abated emissions from India representing a significant share of this total.

 

About Montreal Protocol and its objectives:

  1. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is an international agreement made in 1987.
  2. It was designed to stop the production and import of ozone-depleting substances and reduce their concentration in the atmosphere to help protect the earth’s ozone layer.
  3. It sits under the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer.
  4. Its objectives are to promote cooperation on the adverse effects of human activities on the ozone layer.
  5. India became a Party to the Protocol on 19 June 1992 and since then has ratified the amendments.

 

Kigali Amendment and Ozone Depleting Substances:

  1. It is an international agreement to gradually reduce the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
  2. Ozone-depleting substances are chemicals that destroy the earth’s protective ozone layer. They include:
    1. chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), methyl chloroform (CH3CCl3), hydro Bromo fluorocarbons (HBFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), methyl bromide (CH3Br), bromochloromethane (CH2BrCl)
  3. Kigali Amendment is a legally binding agreement designed to create rights and obligations in international law.
  4. While HFCs do not deplete the stratospheric ozone layer, they have high global warming potential ranging from 12 to 14,000, which has an adverse impact on climate.

 

From Kigali Amendment to Montreal Protocol:

  1. The Montreal Protocol, viewed as one of the most successful international treaties, seeks to bring down use of chemicals depleting the planet’s stratospheric-ozone.
  2. The Kigali Amendment that was adopted globally in 2016, and became effective in 2019, aims to limit the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
  3. HFCs are not ozone-depleting, but carry catastrophic warming potential, given they are almost a thousand times more potent than carbon dioxide.
  4. The Kigali Amendment tasks industrialised nations to cut production and use of HFCs by 85% of the 2011-2013 levels by 2036, while one group of developing nations including China, Brazil and South Africa, will need to cut by 80% from 2020-22 levels by 2045 and another including India and Iran will need to cut 85% from 2024-26 levels by 2047.
  5. As per official estimates, the pathway will help cut 0.5oC of warming by 2100.
  6. The Amendment is certainly ambitious, given HFC usage in cooling and refrigeration vis-a-vis the growing need for these with climate-change making intense heatwaves more frequent than ever before.
  7. Given the Kigali Amendment makes HFC reduction legally-binding on parties ratifying it, India has committed to chalk out a national phase-out strategy by 2023 and embed it into its legal framework by 2024.

 

India’s climate commitments:

  1. India has assumed a leadership role in ozone action under the Montreal Protocol, and its ratification of the Amendment presents a plethora of opportunities, especially in manufacturing of low warming potential (LWP) refrigerant manufacturing and related innovation.
  2. The fact that the country came out with a Cooling Action Plan in 2019, and set targets for reducing and offsetting the climate-threatening (and otherwise planet harming) effects of cooling and refrigeration is evidence of exemplary climate responsibility.
  3. India is also one of the very few nations whose climate commitments put it on the path to pulling its weight to keep warming under 2oC by 2100.
  4. Developed nations that have shirked responsibility on climate action, despite the global celebration of their ‘ambitious’ action, need to take note.
  5. Beyond the Montreal Protocol, as it exists now, the world needs to act on many ozone-damaging emissions.
  6. Anthropogenic emission of nitrous oxide plays a significant role in stratospheric ozone depletion directly and by moderating depletion by chlorinated chemicals.
  7. Also, space exploration poses a significant threat to the ozone layer that had begun healing from historical depletion following action under the Montreal Protocol.

 

India’s achievements in Montreal Protocol and Kigali Amendment:

  1. India has for decades played a key role in bringing about the success of the Montreal protocol, the hugely successful international environmental treaty on which the Kigali Amendment is based.
  2. India’s ratification of the Kigali Amendment sends a strong signal to the rest of world about its commitment to the treaty moving forward, encouraging other countries to ratify and signalling that a rapid global market transition is soon to begin.
  3. India will develop a national strategy for phasing down HFCs in the coming year, in consultation with the industry, and conclude by 2023.
  4. The government also plans to update its existing legal framework by mid-2024 to phase out ozone-depleting substances (the Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and Control) Rules to allow appropriate control of the production and consumption of Hydrofluorocarbons to ensure compliance with the Kigali Amendment.
  5. India’s commitment to phasing down HFCs will usher in global and domestic environmental and economic benefits.
  6. It will give a boost to India’s domestic manufacturing and employment generation goals, spurring domestic innovation and attracting international investments.
  7. The global marketplace is shifting to low-GWP refrigerant production, and early adoption of low-GWP refrigerants will lead to a competitive advantage.
  8. Manufacturers and stakeholders agree that the Montreal Protocol is an effective vehicle for refrigerant market transformation, including room ACs.
  9. Early adoption now signals to the industry that India will continue to have strong demand for low-GWP equipment; this will help attract industry to manufacture in India.
  10. Ratifying the Kigali Amendment demonstrates that India has a plan to provide much-needed cooling for millions while balancing the need to protect the environment.
  11. Adopting low-GWP refrigerants will enable India to achieve both its development and climate action targets.

 

Conclusion:

India, a critical global stakeholder in charting a low carbon future, greatly exemplified its climate leadership today by approving the ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, the global pact to phase down super-warming hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

Ratifying the Kigali Amendment further strengthens India’s influence and goodwill around the globe, and will help bolster its efforts to establish smart policies and bylaws, including energy efficiency, while phasing down HFCs.

However, there is a boom in space-related activity in the coming years, including launches.

With countries liberalising entry into the space sector for private players—there is considerable interest, gauging from the plans set in motion by SpaceX, Virgin, and Blue Origin—the Earth’s ozone face newer threats.

Countries need to develop a Montreal-like consensus on battling these proactively.