India’s approval on ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is a significant step forward on India's green cooling action that will help deal with the climate crisis.
Recently, the Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, while giving the nod, also announced developing a national strategy for phasing down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by 2023 after consultation with industries to help them have a clear roadmap for action.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and their substitutes, the hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), are powerful greenhouse gases apart from being ozone-damaging. The HFCs, a new generation of coolants are ozone damaging but being greenhouse gases are bad for the climate.
In 2019, the peak extent of the ozone hole over Antarctica was only 16.4 million square kilometers (6.3 million square miles). If the Montreal Protocol parties stay on track with their commitments, the ozone hole could return to pre-1980 levels by the 2060s.
“Since the Montreal Protocol was signed in 1987, countries have phased out most of the ozone-damaging gases, but their replacements, the HFCs, are powerful greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. In 2016, national delegates agreed on the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which calls for cutting the production and use of HFCs by 80–85% by the late 2040s. The amendment entered into force at the start of 2019, with the goal of avoiding additional warming by up to 0.4°C (0.72 °F) by the end of the century.” (Jane Palmer, Mongabay, May 2021)
The Kigali Amendment is the first and only legally binding treaty on climate change in the 21st century. It was adopted in October 2016 at the 28th Meeting of the Parties held at Kigali, Rwanda, to phase down HFCs, a “super” greenhouse gas (GHG). HFCs are primarily used as refrigerants in refrigerators and air-conditioners. To meet the Kigali Amendment obligations, these will be replaced with low-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants.
Chandra Bhushan, CEO of iFOREST, who was conferred with the Ozone Award by the UN-Environment for his contribution towards the framing of the Kigali Amendments to the Montreal Protocol, said that “the Union Cabinet’s approval to ratify the Kigali Amendment demonstrates India’s leadership towards green cooling and climate action."
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Phasing down HFC refrigerants will help avoid GHG emissions of 2.8–4.1 GtCO2e/year by 2050. The nod of the Indian Government on the ratification also signals India’s intention to ramp up GHG emission reduction.
“The global warming potential of HFCs is a thousand times more than carbon dioxide. The ratification means India will have an HFC consumption and production freeze in 2028, a 10% reduction in 2032, and an 85% reduction by 2047. In doing so, India alone will reduce 2 to 6 billion tons of carbon equivalent emissions through 2050. This is equal to two years of India’s current annual emissions," said Bhushan.
Globally, the HFC phase-down is expected to prevent the emission of up to 105 million tonne CO2e of greenhouse gases, helping to avoid up to 0.5 degrees Celsius of global temperature rise by 2100 while continuing to protect the ozone layer.
India's ratification of the Kigali Amendment will improve compliance on GHG emission reduction and strategize climate action. "The Kigali Amendment is a legally binding treaty, which creates clear obligations for Government authorities and private actors to take time-bound action," said Bhushan. "We need strong legal obligations because the latest IPCC report has clearly suggested that we have very little time to act on to avoid catastrophic climate change impacts, such as increasing heatwaves and floods. India remains particularly vulnerable to these”, he added.
The ratification is also viewed by the Government to lead to “co-benefits” of achieving energy efficiency gains, maximizing economic and social benefits. It is also expected to boost domestic markets and innovation for new generation alternative refrigerants and related technologies. The ratification also means India will have access to global financial and technical cooperation, including technology transfer, crucial for an energy transition.
“India’s decision on ratification comes at an opportune time as this will give a boost to the industry to invest in developing alternative refrigerants and energy-efficient appliances. If India successfully enhances energy efficiency with HFC phase-down, the residential air-conditioning sector alone can abate about 0.4 billion tons of carbon equivalent emissions per year in 2030 and lead to billions of dollars in savings," said Bhushan.
He added that the existing India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) is already aligned closely with the Kigali Amendment and sets phased reduction targets for refrigerant use by 2038. “With the implementation of the ICAP and strategies and policies to meet the Kigali commitments, India is well poised to achieve the targets of the Amendment while ensuring ‘sustainable cooling and thermal comfort for all."
The move assumes more significance in the wake of the recent IPCC report, which is termed "code red" for humanity by the United Nations, and calls for urgent and accelerated climate action.