How India Can "Walk the Talk" on Climate Action Ahead of Paris 2015


Co-authored by Nehmat Kaur and Hannah Girardeau

"I hope that the budget will give a clear indication on how we want to walk the talk. And therefore, clean energy, clean water, clean air and many other initiatives of the Narendra Modi government will get reflected into [the] budget." ~ Prakash Javadekar, Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change

This keynote address by Environment Minister Javadekar kicked off the first public forum to discuss India's intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) ahead of the upcoming climate change negotiations in Paris at the end of 2015. Organized by NRDC's partner and leading climate and energy think tank, the Council on Environment, Energy, and Water (CEEW), the "Negotiating the Climate Cliff" conference held in Delhi on Tuesday helped set the stage for an exciting year for climate action in India and possibly the global climate negotiations.

A technical term often used in international climate negotiations, INDCs are domestic voluntary commitments developed by individual countries and serve as a proposed roadmap for combating climate change. The Indian government is moving forward by developing and crafting its INDCs and taking stakeholder input and engagement with business, academics, civil society and others through public fora. Reaffirming the government's desire to protect all citizens from the impacts of climate change, Minister Javadekar openly invited the audience to continue providing inputs, suggestions, and research to shape India's climate policy. The Minister also announced that India may put forth its INDCs by July 2015.

India's domestic climate plans will not only include steps toward mitigation (primarily through ambitious clean energy goals such as the new 100 GW solar target by 2022), but also adaptation plans and the financial and technological requirements needed to achieve comprehensive solutions. Minister Javadekar emphasized that India "put its best foot forward" when submitting its INDCs to the global community, and that much of its climate action is already underway. Stepping into a new leadership role on the world stage, India is striving to "walk the talk."

Building on the recent joint U.S.-India announcements on the Montreal Protocol following the two successful bilateral meetings between President Obama and Prime Minister Modi, India is making progress and driving action in the phase down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), potent heat-trapping greenhouse gases used mainly as refrigerant gases with high global warming potential (GWP) - another key objective in fighting global climate change. The transition to alternative refrigerants presents Indian industry with an opportunity to take advantage to deliver better, energy efficient products to both Indian and global consumers, while maintaining profitability, because it makes good business sense to do so.


At CEEW's conference, our colleague Bhaskar Deol participated in a panel of government officials, industry representatives, and civil society researchers addressing the problem of the growth of HFCs in India and around the globe. More technical discussions of HFCs like this one are essential to shaping India's climate policy and have been a focus of recent international climate negotiations.

Specifically, as research by NRDC and CEEW shows, room and auto air conditioners (ACs), two sectors that utilize HFCs, will form a bulk of India's HFC emissions by 2050. Technology to phase down HFCs is already on the market. There are 3 million cars with low-GWP refrigerant HFO1234yf, and over 3 million ACs that have been sold globally using the mid-GWP refrigerant R-32 alone. In India, the sales of alternative hydrocarbon ACs being marketed by Godrej and R32 ACs being marketed by Daikin and Fujitsu General add up to about 300,000 units already using a low- or mid-GWP refrigerant in India - about 10% of total room ACs sold in India.

Existing challenges certainly need to be addressed in a potential HFC phase down, but India is equipped to transition to safer technologies as the nation tackles other contributors to harmful climate pollution. The current barriers to widespread HFC phase down in India and potential ways to address these challenges were discussed in detail at the CEEW conference.

Availability of tested and market-viable technology for some sectors is a significant challenge, as discussed at the CEEW conference. For example, sectors such as large chillers and air conditioners of capacity of 4.5 tons and above currently do not have viable alternatives. However, through the Montreal Protocol, Indian industry could be provided a sufficient lead-in period to phase down HFCs after a grace period of 10 or even more years. At the same time there are sectors such as foam manufacturing and small room ACs which can move ahead today. And the markets are already showing this to be the case.

Another main topic of discussion during the CEEW conference was access to technology and intellectual property rights. Often with a 10-year or longer phasedown schedule, patents expire and technology becomes more widely available. Countries can also negotiate intellectual property and establish joint ventures to test technology in domestic markets.

Financing for an HFC phase down in India was another key point of discussion. The Montreal Protocol's multilateral fund (MLF) has been an effective tool to finance agreed-to incremental costs of companies making a transition in the past under the treaty. An amendment to the Montreal Protocol can make financing immediately available to companies transitioning from HFCs during the grace period to low-GWP solutions in order to serve both export and domestic markets. Further, financing from the MLF can go beyond looking at just transition to low-GWP and also factor in the possibility of using flammable refrigerants safely and providing higher energy efficiency.

The currently ongoing hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) phase out may also be addressed and integrated with a phase down of HFCs. Additionally, implementation and implications for the appliance servicing sector presents a challenge that can be addressed with adequate capacity building.

The Indian government seems to be taking strides to increase the country's clean energy markets and protect India's most vulnerable residents from the impacts of climate change. We are looking forward to seeing how continued climate action on the ground in India translates into broader participation and global leadership ahead of Paris 2015.