Stakeholders across industry groups and international experts discussed the challenges faced by India in phasing down high global warming potential (GWP) hydrofluorocarbons (HFC)s at a roundtable session held here yesterday.Speaking on the occasion, Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Shri Anil Madhav Dave highlighted that India leads by example through its sustainable lifestyle habits that are key to mitigating climate change issues. The Minister also encouraged all stakeholders to focus on R&D towards implementing holistic solutions that address consumption as well as emission, as well as mechanisms to finance such initiatives. The Minister also gave an assurance that India remains committed to address the issue of Climate Change. Reaffirming India’s constructive role in global efforts to mitigate climate change, the Minister said that 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. Shri Dave also added that the need was to focus on issues like energy efficiency, using CSR for research and development, and on demand-side management – changing architecture and consumption patterns to reduce cooling needs.The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) hosted the roundtable discussion on “Phasing Down HFCs in India: Road to the HFC amendment to the Montreal Protocol”.
Representatives from MoEFCC, civil society organisations, such as Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Manufacturers Association (RAMA), Refrigerant Gas Manufacturers Association (REGMA), Indian Polyurethane Association (IPU), Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), National Research Development Corporation (NRDC) & The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), as well as representatives from industry, were present at the discussion. Some of the key issues discussed at the roundtable included - opportunities and challenges in the residential and commercial air conditioning sector, cost and benefits of various transition imperatives, and issues that are likely to come up during negotiations, specifically related to patents and finance.The Ministry reaffirmed the need to develop indigenous research and development capabilities for India specific HFC alternatives. The recent collaborative R&D programme initiated by the Ministry, to develop low GWP HFC alternatives within the country, was also highlighted.The positive nature of multilateral negotiations and recent moves to create financial incentives for energy efficiency and India’s unique position, both as a consumer and as a producer of refrigerants at the negotiations were also highlighted. The role played by industry, in facilitating transitions in compliance with various aspects of the protocol was also recognized.A key concern that came up during the discussions was the additional cost involved in migrating to greener technologies.
According to a recent research by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) released yesterday, the economy wide cost for transition for India between 2015 and 2050 would be 12 billion Euros for the Indian proposal and 34 billion Euros for the North American proposal. Additional Secretary, MoEFCC, Shri R.R Rashmi 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”. “One thing is clear. The debate is not on what needs to be done, but on how to do it. We have to make sure all parties are comfortable. A fine balance has to be achieved between national interests and environmental concerns,” Shri Rashmi added.Experts also suggested that India should assert that funding (from the Multilateral Fund) for research and development of low GWP alternatives, and for capacity building of the servicing sector should be disbursed to developing countries as soon as possible, so that this technological transition can be achieved without any delay. International experts highlighted that early funding is available for countries to choose energy-efficient alternatives and move for an earlier phase-down.Representatives from the industry voiced various challenges they face like patent issues, cost of moving to alternatives, lack of research on performance of refrigerants in high ambient temperature regions, and competitiveness of the industrial sector. Moreover, several voices from the industry questioned the safety, flammability and toxicity issues, with some of the low GWP alternatives and emphasised on the need for creating an incentive-structure for scaling up potential alternatives. The session also focussed on issues related to further testing and mainstreaming of available alternatives in the market, like natural refrigerants.Earlier, Joint Secretary, MoEFCC, Shri Manoj Kumar Singh, opened the session and briefed the gathering about the importance of the upcoming negotiations in Kigali (Rwanda).During the earlier rounds of negotiations held in Bangkok, Thailand in 2015, India had, taken a leadership role by proposing an amendment to the Montreal Protocol, recognizing the need to phase out HFCs, while also rationalising the costs associated with such a transition.