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What are HFCs? Do you think these chemicals are environment-friendly? ...

  Oct 29, 2016

What are HFCs? Do you think these chemicals are environment-friendly? State India’s stand on phasing out HFCs.

HFCs were introduced as ozone-friendly gases but they are greenhouse gases with high global warming potential. They are factory-made gases used in air conditioning and refrigeration. While HFCs are less abundant in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, they have 10,000 times the planet-warming potency. But carbon dioxide lingers in the atmosphere for centuries, while HFCs disintegrate after about 15 years.

Some countries like the US and several other developed countries have long been seeking to replace HFCs with alternative technologies, such as HFOs (hydrofluoroolefins) and want the matter to be discussed under the Montreal Protocol.

The international debate about Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)—the climate-damaging refrigerant gases— is: should they be treated as short lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) under Kyoto Protocol or be phased out Montreal Protocol. Since HFCs are not ozone-depleting, they have been kept out of the Montreal Protocol that currently deals with phasing out ozone depleting substances like hydro-chlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFC). HFCs, on the other hand, contribute to global warming and come under Kyoto Protocol.
 
India initially wanted them under climate talks as in these talks India enjoyed common but differentiated treatment and did not have to take emission targets. But there is international pressure on India to take targets though on a lesser scale than the developed countries. Thus, climate talks do not offer any special advantage for HFCs. PM Narendra Modi in an op-ed in the Washington Post, co-authored with US President Barack Obama back in September, had recognised the Montreal Protocol (MP) as the right forum for HFCs—but with reporting and accounting under the UNFCCC. This was depicted as an encouraging step towards changing stance of India on the issue.Previously, this had been a point of disagreement between India and the US since India opposed any action on HFCs under Montreal Protocol.
 
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) expressed its view that the HFCs are a part of SLCPs but have higher global warming potential when compared to carbon dioxide. Even though HFCs only contribute to less than one per cent of global warming to date, their production, consumption and emissions are growing at a rate of 8 per cent every year.
 While these debates go on, the global climate agreement in Paris in December 2015 might lead to more clarity on the issue.