In October 2016, exactly 11 months ago, more than 190 countries came together in a historic global agreement to safeguard the environment. The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol Treaty—celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2017—brought nations together under a commitment to phase down potent heat-trapping hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) gases. Phasing down HFCs could help avoid 0.5°C more global warming by the turn of the century—the single biggest step to limit warming to under 2°C under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
On the Protocol's 30th anniversary and World Ozone Day celebrations in New Delhi, the Government of India too reaffirmed its commitment to climate action. India's Environment Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan acknowledged the Montreal Protocol's success in reducing ozone-depleting substances (ODSs). While releasing a book on India's leadership to curb the use of ODSs, Minister Vardhan stressed that India would continue to act as countries come together to phasedown high global warming potential (GWP) HFC gases under the Protocol.
As the Minister highlighted, the phasedown of high GWP HFCs is particularly crucial for India’s rapidly growing economy. Used mostly in air conditioning and refrigeration, HFCs are the fastest growing climate pollutants because of the skyrocketing demand for air conditioning and refrigeration in India.
NRDC, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and other partners are working in India to advance strategies that will help keep India cool while protecting its citizens from the impacts of global warming. As the number of air conditioners increases, dialing down their energy and climate impacts becomes even more urgent.
India’s market is already moving ahead. Market leaders such as Godrej & Boyce, Daikin and a number of other manufacturers are beginning to sell low GWP air conditioners. Chemical companies are moving ahead too, and leading equipment manufacturers are shifting their domestic production lines to alternative refrigerants for both domestic use and exports.
Earlier in 2017, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change released the plan to put India on track to reduce HFCs. Under the accelerated phaseout schedule of ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), six Indian room AC manufacturers are already leapfrogging part of their production to more climate-friendly refrigerants ahead of time, indicating the market's readiness to move toward more advanced technology.
This refrigerant transition also presents significant opportunities for energy efficiency improvements in the air conditioning and cooling appliances used in India. An HFC phasedown coupled with energy efficiency improvements will allow India to lock-in energy savings while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making ACs more affordable for consumers to own and operate.
The Indian government recently announced plans to develop a National Cooling Action Plan (NCAP), with a view to combine the impending refrigerant transition and energy efficiency improvements. The NCAP aims to set a pathway for India to move towards climate-friendly, energy-efficient, and affordable cooling. To set the stage for NCAP, the Indian government is convening key experts from the cooling industry, buildings, energy efficiency, alternative refrigerants (low- and zero-GWP) including NRDC, in a roundtable discussion in New Delhi next week.
Rising concerns about climate change and energy create a host of challenges and opportunities for India’s air conditioning sector. Integrating energy efficiency improvements with low GWP refrigerants can generate multiple benefits from energy saving, cost savings, and a cleaner environment. By supporting the industry to make this transition smoothly, the Government of India is moving in the right direction—toward a cleaner energy future.
This blog is co-authored with Karan Chouksey, NRDC India Initiative, and Karan Mangotra, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)