Missed Opportunity at International Talks on Dangerous HFCs

Civil Society Groups Urge India to Lead in HFC Phase Down

BANGKOK (October 25, 2013) – In an unexpected move, India’s government is opposing efforts to phase down dangerous heat-trapping chemicals called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) during the United Nations’ Montreal Protocol negotiations in Bangkok this week. This apparent contradiction to recent statements by Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has been met with disappointment by various Indian and international civil society and environmental groups, according to the Natural Resource Defense Council.

“Embarking on a gradual phase down of HFCs would be a win-win for India,” said Bhaskar Deol, NRDC India representative. “But, unfortunately, India has missed an opportunity to take a real leadership role to support business innovation and protect communities from the worst effects of climate change. The time to act is now. India should join other nations in the global phase down of HFCs and actively engage in the Montreal Protocol process.”

At previous meetings of the Montreal Protocol, more than 110 countries have supported proposals to use this highly successful treaty to gradually phase down production and consumption of HFCs over several decades. In Bangkok, a large majority of developed and developing countries were ready to commence negotiations on the phasing down HFCs, including treaty amendments proposed by Micronesia and by Canada, Mexico and the United States. A key step forward is forming a “contact group” charged with negotiating the technical, financial and other related issues.    

India led a group of counties, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Cuba, that prevented formation of the contact group and formal negotiations to commence. 

Civil Society Groups Urge India to Lead in HFC Phase Down

Civil society groups agree the Indian government should be willing to engage in HFC negotiations under the Montreal Protocol. The Centre for Science and Environment, a leading Indian environmental group, urged India to take a lead under the Montreal Protocol:

“The Government of India should agree to setup a contact group to discuss the management of HFCs where countries can turn in their submissions on how Montreal Protocol should address control of HFCs.”

The Council on Energy Environment and Water, a leading Delhi-based think tank and co-author with NRDC and other organizations of the HFC study Cooling India with Less Warming, said:

“By participating in Montreal Protocol discussions, India can ensure that developed countries act on HFCs now and fast, and that developing countries have access to technologically and commercially feasible alternatives with financial support from the Montreal Protocol’s Multilateral Fund.”

CSE and CEEW both expressed that a contact group with the purpose to consider substantive issues, such as alternative technology and financing, would give all parties a forum to address their concerns in a systematic manner. India could respond to any shortcomings in the current HFC proposals by putting its own amendment proposals on the table.


The Montreal Protocol has had extraordinary success phasing out the chemicals that would have destroyed the ozone layer. As a bonus, eliminating those chemicals is one of the most effective steps yet taken to slow global warming and climate change. India was a leader in phasing out ozone depleting substances under the Protocol.

But the treaty has had one bad side effect. It has spawned a new class of heat-trapping gases, HFCs, as replacement chemicals. Their rapid growth in refrigeration and other uses threatens to reverse the Montreal Protocol’s climate change gains. HFCs are on track to account for as much as one-fifth of all heat-trapping pollution by 2050 – unless action is taken now.

In September, Prime Minister Singh joined the leaders of the G-20 in a specific commitment to use the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs, while continuing to track their emissions under the climate treaties. He also echoed the same commitment that same month in Washington in a bilateral agreement with President Obama. The G-20 and Washington agreements mirrored similar bilateral commitments by President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Taken together, the world leaders’ announcements raised expectations of a breakthrough at this week’s Montreal Protocol meeting.

India’s position in Bangkok contrasted with other members of the BASIC group – Brazil, South Africa, and China – each of which displayed greater flexibility. South Africa, for example, joined virtually the entire African continent in supporting the start of HFC negotiations.

Despite the outcome at this meeting, support for action by leaders of the G-20, combined with backing from the majority of the world’s nations, guarantees that the push for an HFC phase down under the Montreal Protocol will continue to grow next year. India, we hope, will see the opportunity and join other nations in a global phase down of HFCs.