News of an apparent backsliding on an Indian commitment to join a US and Chinese initiative to curb HFC emissions under the Montreal Protocol (which was originally designed to combat ozone depletion) comes in the middle of a robust debate within policy circles in India. Arun Mohan Sukumar writing in The Hindu opposes any Indian agreement to extend Montreal to HFCs, while Arunabha Ghosh of CEEW makes a case that a properly designed Indian assent could be a win-win for the climate as well as Indian business interests.
An interesting aspect of moving the center of action from the UNFCCC process to the Montreal framework is the implied discarding of the “Common But Differentiated Responsibility” (CBDR) principle of the climate negotiation process, which India and practically all developing countries hold as sacrosanct. There have been recent attempts to eliminate this principle in multilateral climate talks. Nevertheless, as pointed out by Arunabha Ghosh, action on HFCs is very important if the world is to have a decent shot at addressing climate change, given their fast-growing contribution to warming in the decades ahead. Considering that just over 10% of Indian households have air-conditioning (in a country with long, oppressive summers with temperatures exceeding 100 F), Indian participation in any action against HFCs is critical as the market for cooling expands in the country.
India should join the debate rather than stonewall action on HFCs, and then negotiate hard to ensure that developed countries do not walk away from their responsibilities on meaningful commitments on funding a large part of the required transition. The US and other developed countries could also formally restate their commitment to the CBDR principle as being applicable to all forums and frameworks under which climate action may be discussed in the future.