Kigali Amendment - Fighting Ozone Hole and Climate Change Together - Daily Current Affair Article

CONTEXT:

India recently ratified a key amendment to the Montreal Protocol, The Kigali Amendment, which turned the 1989 ozone-saving agreement into an extremely potent weapon in the fight against climate change as well.

KIGALI AMENDMENT

  • In the 28th meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, negotiators from 197 nations signed a historic agreement to amend the Montreal Protocol in Kigali, a capital city of a tiny African country, Rwanda on 15th October 2016.
  • As per the agreement, these countries are expected to reduce the manufacture and use of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by roughly 80-85% from their respective baselines, till 2045.
  • It is a legally binding agreement between the signatory parties with non-compliance measures.
  • It has divided the signatory parties into three groups-
  • The first group consists of rich and developed economies like USA, UK and EU countries who will start to phase down HFCs by 2019 and reduce it to 15% of 2012 levels by 2036.
  • The second group consists of emerging economies like China, Brazil as well as some African countries who will start phase down by 2024 and reduce it to 20% of 2021 levels by 2045.
  • The third group consists of developing economies and some of the hottest climatic countries like India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia who will start phasing down HFCs by 2028 and reduce it to 15% of 2024-2026 levels till 2047.
  • It also has a provision for a multilateral fund for developing countries for adaptation and mitigation.
  • The Technology and Energy Assessment Panel (TEAP) will take a periodic review of the alternative technologies and products for their energy efficiency and safety standards
  • This phase down is expected to arrest the global average temperature rise up to 0.5°C by 2100.
  • Kigali agreement is an amendment to Montreal Protocol.

Positives:

  • If implemented successfully, the Kigali Amendment is expected to prevent about 0.5°C rise in global warming by the end of this century.
  • It strengthens the Paris Agreement which sets an ambitious target of restricting the rise in global temperature below 2O Celsius, as compared to pre-industrial level.
  • Unlike Paris agreement, it gives clear, concrete and mandatory targets with fixed timelines to the signatory parties to achieve their targets.
  • It would prevent the emission of HFCs equivalent to 70 billion tons of CO2.

Negatives:

  • Financial implications – Industries have to either invest in R & D to find out the substitutes for HFCs or they have to buy patented substances and technologies from other MNCs. Consequently, the cost of production will increase which may ultimately shrink the buyer base for their products.
  • Technological implications – Some of the developed nations have already started using substitutes of HFCs in their products and have a sound technological knowledge about their use. Without technology transfer or research, it would be difficult for domestic industries to compete with them in global as well as domestic market.

MONTREAL PROTOCOL

  • The Montreal Protocol is an international environmental agreement with universal ratification which was adopted in 1987 to protect the earth’s ozone layer by eliminating use of ozone depleting substances (ODS).
  • And the Montreal Protocol has a fairly good track record on ensuring climate benefits as well. CFCs, the predecessors to HFCs, were also greenhouse gases, apart from being ozone-depleting. Their phase-out has already avoided an estimated 135 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions between 1990 and 2010. This is three times the current annual greenhouse gas emissions. The UNEP estimates that, with Kigali Amendment, the avoided emissions could touch 420 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by the end of the century.
  • The Montreal Protocol has led to the phase-out of 99 per cent of ozone-depleting chemicals in refrigerators, air-conditioners and many other products.
  • The latest Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion completed in 2018, shows that, as a result, parts of the ozone layer have recovered at a rate of 1-3% per decade since 2000.
  • At projected rates, Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone will heal completely by the 2030s. The Southern Hemisphere will follow in the 2050s and Polar Regions by 2060.
  • Ozone layer protection efforts have also contributed to the fight against climate change by averting an estimated 135 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, from 1990 to 2010.
Why has the Montreal Protocol been so successful compared to other efforts at international cooperation?
  • Developing countries are given more time to comply with the phase out decisions, and also they receive funding from the Multilateral Fund to facilitate compliance with the Protocol’s provisions.
  • Comprehensive negotiations: leadership and innovative approaches were focused from the beginning and negotiations were held in small, informal groups. This enabled a genuine exchange of views and the opportunity to take some issues on trust, such as the subsequent development of the Multilateral Fund. The people negotiating the treaty also included scientists, which lent credibility.
  • Universal consensus: The Montreal Protocol is the only universal UN Agreement, signed by 196 states and the EU. It has more signatories than any other international agreement or body, including the United Nations itself.
  • The idea of using trade policy as a punishment mechanism: Due to this readily definable cause and effect relationship, the Montreal Protocol was able to establish strong enforcement provisions as well as strong commitments.
  • Adjustment provision: The science was not definite at the time of adoption of the Montreal protocol, so the negotiators developed a highly flexible instrument which could increase or decrease controls as the science became clearer. This flexibility meant the protocol could be amended to include stricter controls: more ozone-depleting substances added to the control list and total phase-out, rather than partial phase-out, called for.

CFCs , HCFCs and HFCs

  • A set of chemicals, mainly the chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs, which were being used in the air-conditioning and refrigeration industry earlier, were found to be damaging the ozone layer of the upper atmosphere.
  • Their extensive use had led to depletion of the ozone layer, and formation of an “ozone hole” over the Antarctic region.
  • The Montreal Protocol mandated the complete phase-out of CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances (ODS), which it has successfully managed to do in the last three decades.
  • CFCs were gradually replaced, first by HCFCs, or hydrochlorofluorocarbons, in some cases, and eventually by HFCs which have minimal impact on the ozone layer. The transition from HCFCs to HFCs is still happening, particularly in the developing world.
  • HFCs, though benign to the ozone layer, were powerful greenhouse gases. With global warming emerging as one of the biggest global challenges in the new millennium, the use of HFCs came under the scanner. HFCs still form a small part of the total greenhouse gas emissions, but with air-conditioning demand showing a significant increase, especially in countries like India, their use is rising at about 8% every year. If left unabated, their contribution to annual greenhouse gas emissions is expected to reach up to 19% by 2050.
  • This caused the need for the Kigali Amendment
  • In 2016, countries agreed to include HFCs in the list of controlled substances under Montreal Protocol and decided on a schedule for its phase-down. Before the middle of this century, current HFC use has to be curtailed by at least 85 per cent. Countries have different timelines to do this. India has to achieve this target by 2047 while the developed countries have to do it by 2036. China and some other countries have a target of 2045.
  • While the reductions for the rich countries have to begin immediately, India, and some other countries, have to begin cutting their HFC use only from 2031.

INDIA'S STAND TOWARDS KIGALI AMENDMENT

  • India fought hard to get an extended timeline for itself, and some other countries, for the reduction of HFC use. This was meant to give the industry some cushion to make the transition from HFCs to climate-friendly alternatives.
  • India played a very flexible and cooperative role in the whole negotiating process.
  • It has agreed on a lenient schedule as it consumes only 3% of HFCs as compared to the other nations like the USA (37%) and China (25%).
  • Being a country with hot climatic conditions and growing demands of Air-conditioners plus being on a path of 'Make in India', it's tough for India to adhere to this pact but still being a responsible nation, it's taking steps whatever it can, proved by the fact that the Indian government has voluntarily passed the order to stop the production of HFC-23 which is a byproduct of commonly used refrigerant. This will reduce the emission by 100 million tons equivalent of Carbon dioxide in next 15 years.

INDIA'S STEPS WRT MONTREAL PROTOCOL

  • Complete phasing out of production and consumption of CFCs, carbon tetrachloride and halons, man-made chemicals responsible for the depletion of the Ozone Layer. This remarkable milestone was achieved two years ahead of schedule.
  • Carbon tetrachloride, a harmful chemical is used by some of the largest steel manufacturing units in the country, to clean steel. Today, many steel companies, including the country’s largest public sector undertaking in the steel sector, use tetrachloroethene which is less harmful for the environment.
  • Manufacturers of metered dose inhalers have completely transitioned to ozone-friendly and affordable alternatives, demonstrating the potential for environment-friendly public health management in the country.
  • Next step planned by India is to phase out Hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) by 2030, as part of the country’s commitment to the Montreal Protocol.
  • India became one of the first countries in the world to launch a comprehensive Cooling Action plan.

INDIA'S COOLING ACTION PLAN

  • The 20-year ‘India Cooling Action Plan’, or ICAP, released in 2019, describes cooling as a “developmental need” and seeks to address the rising demand in cooling, from buildings to transport to cold-chains, through sustainable actions.
  • The plan estimates that the national cooling demand would grow eight times in the next 20 years, which would result in a corresponding five to eight-fold rise in the demand for refrigerants that involve the use of HFCs.
  • The ICAP aims to bring down the refrigerant demand by 25 to 30 per cent in the next 20 years.
  • As part of the ICAP, the government has also announced targeted R&D efforts aimed at developing low-cost alternatives to HFCs. Such efforts are already underway at the Hyderabad-based Indian Institute of Chemical Technology and IIT Bombay.
  • Broad objectives include:
  • Assessment of cooling requirements across sectors in next 20 years and the associated refrigerant demand and energy use.
  • Map the technologies available to cater the cooling requirement including passive interventions, refrigerant-based technologies and alternative technologies such as not-in-kind technologies.
  • Suggest interventions in each sector to provide for sustainable cooling and thermal comfort for all.
  • Focus on skilling of RAC service technicians.
  • Develop an R&D innovation ecosystem for indigenous development of alternative technologies.

SUGGESTIONS TO IMPLEMENT KIGALI AMENDMENT

  • Redesigning room air conditioners (ACs) to be more efficient.
  • Developing/selecting climate friendly alternatives mainly in refrigeration, air-conditioning, and foam products.
  • India needs to control Illegal trade of CFCs.
  • Inclusion of Ozone depletion issues and its relation to refrigeration practices in the curricula of all technical training institutes in the country.
  • Several low-GWP refrigerants are more flammable than the chemicals they are replacing, and India and other parties have articulated the need to address safety concerns.

Sources

  • The Indian Express
  • The Hindu
  • TheGuardian
  • UNEP
  • PIB
  • Nature
General Studies Paper 3
  • Environment