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Stage set for a deal on HFC phase-down

By Ramesh Kumar Raja
In Environment & Ecology
August 8, 2016
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Amendment to Montreal Protocol should be ambitious and should provide provisions to address energy efficiency, says CSE

After 10 days of negotiations in Vienna on an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase  down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) recently, clear signs have emerged of a deal with solutions to all the major HFC related challenges. The meeting in Vienna was being held to pave the way for just such a deal among nations when they meet again in October this year in Kigali, Rwanda, at the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol.

In Vienna, countries submitted six proposals for baseline, a freezedate  for developing countries and two proposals for developed countries. So far, the Indian proposal remains the most unambitious and conservative among all the proposals submitted.

With a goal firmly set on getting in place an agreement this year on HFC phase-down, it was recognised that a flexible approach is needed for developing countries. But there was divergence on fairness, ambitiousness, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and funding. It must be noted that HFCs are used in air conditioning and refrigeration as a substitute for ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons or CRCs, whose use was eliminated under the Montreal Protocol.

Energy efficiency emerged as an important component in the negotiations. “There is a need to have a deal that prioritises natural refrigerants during HFC phase-down and India should enhance ambition and push for energy efficiency in equipment,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

CSE, the Delhi-based environment think-tank and research agency, has encouraged parties to agree to a deal that ambitiously phases down HFCs while moving to a safer, nonpatented  technology like natural refrigerants. Considering that the IPRs of new generation chemicals are owned by just a few companies, CSE has recommended that Parties should not permit a situation where a monopoly over new chemicals emerges as an outcome of an important environmental conference. These new generation chemicals also have high potential for polluting waterbodies and therefore, are unnecessary and should not be funded.

With negotiations expected to end in October, countries have decided to converge ahead in intersession meetings or in an extended OEWG 38, which could take place a couple of days before the meeting in Rwanda, based on the availability of funding.

CSE, headed by environmentalist  Dr Sunita Narain, recommends to have an ambitious phase-down proposal, promote non-patented natural refrigerants which have low global warming potential and stop new generation unsaturated chemicals which could pollute water. The environmental organization seeks to resolve issues related to funding; IPR of new chemicals and blends; provide provisions for incentivising energy efficiency to reap greater benefits; and provide a financial mechanism to support leapfrog to natural refrigerants.

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