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The U.S. and other Industrialised nations have been compelling India and other developing nations to agree to the phase-out of Hydro Flouro Carbons (HFCs) and move to some safer and climate-friendly gases like Hydro Flouro Olefins (HFOs) (being produced by the U.S. company DuPont) which the U.S. claims are safer and do not warm the globe. Let us see how much truth is there in this claim of the U.S. and what it means for India if it acquiesces to the U.S. pressure.

Overview of phase-out of other Refrigerant gases-

  • In the mid-’80s, the British Antarctic Survey team discovered a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica.
  • Given that the Caucasian population was more vulnerable to the effects of UV radiation (due to less melanin in the skin), ozone layer depletion assumed priority for Northern counties.
  • In 1987, a multilateral agreement, Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, was drawn.
  • The cause of the hole in the ozone layer was a chemical called CFC. Used mainly in aerosol proponents, refrigeration, ACs, etc. The main culprit was “chlorine” which led to the breakdown of ozone.

Now, what is the problem?

The problem is that industrialized nations are already using non-chlorinated Hydrofluoric Carbon (HFC) is an alternative to HCFC. Though these HFCs are Non Ozone Depleting but they have a thousand times more Global Warnings Potential (GWP) than CO2. HFCs are classified under Short-Lived Climate Forces (SLCF) which warms the climate but has a relatively shorter lifetime in the atmosphere (CO2 which is a long-term gas that remains in the atmosphere for over a century). Other SCFs include Methane, Black Carbon (soot), etc.

What Next?

Now it is known that the industrialized world’s transition to HFC was a failure because of its high GWP. On the other hand, The U.S. wants to showcase itself as the champion of climate change by forcing India, China, and other developing countries not to adopt HFCs after phasing out HCFCs, and on the other, it wants them to adopt gasses being produced by its MNC which are Patented, Costly and are not tested for their effect on Global warming.

What is the controversy between Montreal Protocol and UNFCCC?

Rich countries want HFCs to be phased out by bringing them under the Montreal protocol. They argue that Montreal Protocol should address HFCs because their use has increased due to the CFCs and HCFC’s phase out pushed by the protocol.
Developing countries argue that HFC is not an Ozone Depleting substance, rather, it is among six greenhouse gases under Kyoto Protocol (CO2, Methane, N2O, HFC, PFC, and SF6).

Rich countries want to remove HFC from the UNFCCC because they can only phase it out through Clean Development Mechanisms. Countries would then move to least GWP refrigerant gases like hydrocarbons (which are non-patent and cheap) to earn more carbon credit. This move would result in a loss of a huge opportunity for MNCs of rich countries, especially the U.S. And moreover, UNFCCC works on the principle of common but differentiated responsibility which means the responsibly to phase out will be more on developed nations.

Read more: Background of the Surat Split

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