In a major step toward curbing the use of climate-damaging hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, 197 countries today agreed in Kigali, Rwanda, to phase down the use of this super greenhouse gas.
Under the agreement, reached after five-day long gruelling negotiations, developed countries including the US, Japan, Canada and West European nations will reduce HFC use first, followed by China along with a large number of other developing countries.
India and nine other countries of South and West Asia, including Pakistan, Iran and Iraq, will follow.
Overall, the agreement is expected to reduce the HFC use by 85 per cent by 2045.
Under the agreed schedule, the developed countries, led by the US, will reduce HFC use by 85 per cent by 2036 over a 2011-13 baseline. China, which is the largest producer of HFCs in the world, will reduce HFC use by 80 per cent by 2045 over the 2020-22 baseline.
India will reduce the use of HFCs by 85 per cent over the 2024-26 baseline by 2047. The freezing year for India will be 2028 - it means the country would peak its use of HFCs by 2028 and thereafter start phasing it down.
"We welcome this agreement as it reflects the principal of common but differentiated responsibility. It also reflects the emerging reality of a world in which China will have to take more and more responsibility to solve global environmental issues," said Sunita Narain, environmentalist and director general of the Delhi-based think-tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
Developed countries have also agreed to provide enhanced funding support to developing countries under the Kigali deal on Montreal Protocol.
Unlike the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Montreal Protocol amendment is legally binding.
Praising the Indian negotiating team for reaching at this historic deal to phase down the HFCs, Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of the CSE said, "India went with a clear strategy and a proactive agenda to enhance the overall environmental ambition of the deal and to protect the nation's economic interests. The amendment finally agreed to not only protects India's economic interests, but also doubles the climate benefit compared to the previous Indian proposal. It will avoid HFC emissions equivalent to 70 billion tonne of CO2."
The agreement in Kigali is the beginning of a long process to replace HFCs with energy-efficient and environmentally sound alternatives.
"We must take this opportunity to leapfrog the chemical treadmill and move out of fluorinated refrigerants to energy-efficient natural refrigerants. India has the potential to become a major manufacturing hub for natural refrigerant-based equipments," said Bhushan.