December 8, 2023

Syllabus: General Studies paper 3


India recently decided to ratify a key amendment to the 1989 ozone-saving Montreal Protocol negotiated five years ago. 

About the Kigali Amendment:

  • It is named after the Rwandan capital where it was negotiated, enabling the phase-out of hydrofluorocarbons, a set of chemicals notorious for their capacity to warm the planet.
  • In 2016, countries agreed to include HFCs in the list of controlled substances under Montreal Protocol and decided on a schedule for its phase-down. 
    • Before the middle of this century, current HFC use has to be curtailed by at least 85 per cent. 
    • Countries have different timelines to do this. India has to achieve this target by 2047 while the developed countries have to do it by 2036. 
    • China and some other countries have a target of 2045.
  • While the reductions for the rich countries have to begin immediately, India, and some other countries, have to begin cutting their HFC use only from 2031.
  • The 2016 amendment was seen as one of the most important breakthroughs in the global efforts to fight climate change, because; 
    • The HFCs, a set of 19 gases used extensively in the air-conditioning and refrigerant industry, are known to be hundreds, even thousands, of times more potent than carbon dioxide in their ability to cause global warming. 
    • According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the average global warming potential of 22 of the most used HFCs is about 2,500 times that of carbon dioxide.
  • It is estimated that a complete phase-out of HFCs by 2050 would prevent about 0.5 degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures by the end of this century.
  • This important instrument, therefore, is crucial to achieving the target of restraining the increase in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times. 
  • As pointed out by a recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the average temperatures of the planet have already risen by about 1.1 degrees Celsius.

The reason behind ratifying the amendments:

  • It comes close on the heels of similar decisions by the United States and China, the world’s largest producers and consumers of HFCs. 
  • According to a recent factsheet issued by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a US-based environmental organisation, and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), 
    • 122 countries had ratified the Kigali Amendment by the end of July.
  • Under the Kigali amendment, the United States, China and India are in a separate group of countries, with different time schedules to phase out their HFCs and replace them with climate-friendly alternatives. 
  • India has to reduce its HFC use by 80 per cent by the year 2047, while China and the United States have to achieve the same target by the years 2045 and 2034 respectively.

More in the news:

  • India recently stated that it will draw up a national strategy for the phase-down of HFCs by the year 2023 in “consultation with all industry stakeholders”. 
  • It said that existing domestic laws that govern the implementation of the Montreal Protocol would be amended by the middle of 2024 to facilitate the HFC phase-down. 
  • India’s reductions have to begin only after 2028.

Concern with Montreal Protocol

  • With global warming emerging as one of the biggest global challenges in the new millennium, the use of HFCs came under the scanner. 
    • HFCs still form a small part of the total greenhouse gas emissions, but with air-conditioning demand showing a significant increase, especially in countries like India, their use is rising at about 8% every year. 
    • If left unabated, their contribution to annual greenhouse gas emissions is expected to reach up to 19% by 2050.
  • Because HFCs were not ozone-depleting, they have not controlled substances under the Montreal Protocol. 
  • They were part of the problematic greenhouse gases whose emissions sought to be curtailed through climate change instruments such as the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 and the 2015 Paris Agreement. 

Benefits of Montreal Protocol:

  • But the Montreal Protocol has been a far more effective and successful agreement than the climate change instruments. 
    • It has already resulted in the phase-out of 98.6% of ozone-depleting substances. 
    • The remaining 1.4% is the HCFCs that are in the process of being transitioned. 
    • Accordingly, it was decided to use the Montreal Protocol to phase out HFCs as well, rather than leave them at the mercy of climate change agreements.

India’s Effort:

  • India had played a key role in negotiating the Kigali Amendment. 
    • It had fought hard to get an extended timeline for itself, and some other countries, for the reduction of HFC use.
    • This was considered important for the domestic industry which was still in the process of transitioning from HCFCs to HFCs. 
    • The climate-friendly alternatives to HFCs are not yet widely available at low cost. 
    • The extended timeline was meant to give the industry some cushion to make the transition.
  • India was the last major country to announce its decision to ratify it. 
  • There wasn’t ever any doubt over its ratification, and it was more like a waiting game to see what China or the United States did. 
  • In the meanwhile, however, India had unveiled an ambitious action plan for the cooling industry which accounts for the phase-out of HFCs.
  • The 20-year ‘India Cooling Action Plan’, or ICAP, released in 2019, describes cooling as a “developmental need” and seeks to address the rising demand in cooling, from buildings to transport to cold-chains, through sustainable actions. 
  • The plan estimates that the national cooling demand would grow eight times in the next 20 years, which would result in a corresponding five to eight-fold rise in the demand for refrigerants that involve the use of HFCs. 
  • The ICAP aims to bring down the refrigerant demand by 25 to 30 per cent in the next 20 years.
  • As part of the ICAP, the government has also announced targeted R&D efforts aimed at developing low-cost alternatives to HFCs. 
    • Such efforts are already underway at the Hyderabad-based Indian Institute of Chemical Technology and IIT Bombay.

The Indian Express Link:

Question: India’s ratification to the recent amendment to Kigali Agreement shows its commitment towards climate change mitigation. Comment.

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