Make pol­luters pay

In­dia should ur­gently en­act a law to curb HFC-23 emis­sions. This will help the govern­ment gain a foothold at in­ter­na­tional ne­go­ti­a­tion plat­forms RAKESH KA­MAL | NEW DELHI

Down to Earth - - OZONE DAY SPECIAL - @rakeshka­mal

COUN­TRIES ARE ne­go­ti­at­ing a treaty to re­duce the use of hy­droflu­o­ro­car­bons ( hfcs) un­der the ae­gies of the Mon­treal Pro­to­col. Un­der the pro­to­col, which was adopted in the early 1990s to elim­i­nate the use of ozone-de­plet­ing chem­i­cals, the world aims to phase out over 100 chem­i­cals. So far, coun­tries have phased out chlo­roflu­o­ro­car­bons ( cfcs) that were used as a re­frig­er­ant.

Chlorod­i­flu­o­romethane ( hcfc- 22) that is part of hy­drochlo­roflu­o­ro­car­bon group of chem­i­cals (hcfcs) was the main re­place­ment for cfcs and is used as a com­mon re­frig­er­ant in In­dia. But hcfc-22 is a mod­er­ately ozone-de­plet­ing gas and is be­ing phased out un­der the Mon­treal Pro­to­col. While de­vel­oped coun­tries have achieved the tar­get, devel­op­ing coun­tries like In­dia will have to stop us­ing hcfcs by 2030. In­dia has put in place a law to curb the use of hcfcs in a phased man­ner. But there is no law to curb the emis­sion of tri­flu­o­romethane ( hfc- 23), re­leased dur­ing its pro­duc­tion. Though hfc- 23 does not harm the ozone layer, its global warm­ing po­ten­tial is 14,800 times more than that of CO . 2

De­vel­oped coun­tries have re­placed hcfcs with hfcs and devel­op­ing coun­tries are fol­low­ing suit. But given the con­cerns over cli­mate change, coun­tries now plan to phase down the use of hfcs as well. It is in this con­text hfc-23 is be­ing dis­cussed un­der the Mon­treal Pro­to­col. As of now, hfc23 has no use and it is be­ing de­stroyed or emit­ted as a waste prod­uct.

In In­dia, five flu­o­ro­chem­i­cal com­pa­nies man­u­fac­ture hcfc- 22. They have in­cin­er­a­tors to de­stroy hfc-23, which they had pro­cured un­der the Clean De­vel­op­ment Mech­a­nism ( cdm) of the UN Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change. Dur­ing 2007-2013, these com­pa­nies de­stroyed the gas and sold the car­bon cred­its to de­vel­oped coun­triesun­der cdm. Forevery­ton­neof hfc23 de­stroyed, they earned 14,800 car­bon cred­its. This trans­lates into a profit of over US $1 bil­lion till 2012 -13. But it is not

known if the com­pa­nies con­tinue to de­stroy hfc- 23 fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the car­bon cred­its mar­ket in 2012-13. When Down To Earth con­tacted the com­pa­nies, they re­fused to di­vulge the amount of hfc-23 they make and if they still de­stroy it.

Such at­ti­tude of com­pa­nies is not lim­ited to In­dia. World­wide, 19 other re­frig­er­ant fa­cil­i­ties have in­stalled hfc-23 in­cin­er­a­tors un­der cdm. These are in China, Ar­gentina, South Korea and Mex­ico. De­stroy­ing hfc23 was so prof­itable un­der cdm that sev­eral com­pa­nies, mainly in China, in­creased the pro­duc­tion of hcfc- 22 just to be able to de­stroy hfc- 23. This prompted New Zealand to stop trad­ing in car­bon cred­its in De­cem­ber 2012. The EU did the same in Jan­uary 2013. These were the two ma­jor buy­ers of car­bon cred­its.

The lev­els of hfc-23 in the at­mos­phere have rapidly in­creased since the col­lapse of the car­bon cred­its mar­ket. This in­di­cates that hcfc- 22 in­dus­tries con­tinue to emit hfc- 23. Es­ti­mates show that in the busi­ness-as-usual sce­nario, all the hcfc- 22 man­u­fac­tur­ing units in the world will re­lease more than 2 bil­lion tonnes of CO 2 equiv­a­lent of hfc-23 into the at­mos­phere by 2020.

So far, China is prob­a­bly the only coun­try that has suc­cess­fully man­aged to per­suade its com­pa­nies to de­stroy hfc-23.

Chi­nese checks

In China, when com­pa­nies were mak­ing wind­fall gains un­der the cdm regime, the govern­ment im­posed a 65 per cent tax on cdm projects in­volv­ing hcfc- 22. While the Mon­treal Pro­to­col re­quires coun­tries to phase out hcfcs by 2030, China has col­lected enough money to in­cin­er­ate its by-prod- uct, hfc-23, for at least 50 years un­der the busi­ness-as-usual sce­nario. Yet, af­ter the col­lapse of the car­bon credit mar­ket, China in­tro­duced a tem­po­rary sub­sidy in 2015 to en­sure that com­pa­nies con­tinue to in­cin­er­ate hfc- 23. Un­der this pol­icy, the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment and Re­form Com­mis­sion, China’s top eco­nomic plan­ning agency, pro­vides sub­si­dies to com­pa­nies that are man­u­fac­tur­ing hcfc- 22 but have not had ac­cess to cdm. De­pend­ing on the pro­duc­tion ca- pac­ity, new com­pa­nies get up to 15 mil­lion Yuan ( R150 mil­lion) to buy hfc-23 in­cin­er­a­tors. The com­pa­nies that re­ceived funds un­der cdm will also get sub­si­dies up to 4 Yuan per tonne of CO . The sub­sidy will be 2 re­duced ev­ery year and end in 2020.

Why In­dia shouldn't fol­low it

In­dia did not im­pose tax on flu­o­ro­chem­i­cal com­pa­nies when cdm was in place and al­lowed them to make huge prof­its. So un­like China, the In­dian govern­ment is not obliged to in­cen­tivise com­pa­nies to in­cin­er­ate hfc23. But there is an ur­gent need to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion so that the emis­sion of this su­per green­house gas can be pre­vented.

Re­al­is­ing the im­por­tance of con­trol­ling hfc- 23 emis­sion, the Na­tional Green Tri­bunal in De­cem­ber 2015 di­rected the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment, For­est and Cli­mate Change and other con­cerned au­thor­i­ties to carry out a study on the units that make hcfc- 22. It also asked the min­istry to pro­vide guide­lines on the stor­age, emis­sion and in­cin­er­a­tion of hfc- 23.

An anal­y­sis by Down To Earth shows that cap­ture and de­struc­tion of hfc- 23 is in­ex­pen­sive and costs less than ` 15-25 per tonne of CO equiv­a­lent. This means com2 pa­nies man­u­fac­tur­ing hcfc-22 will have to spend as lit­tle as R300 lakh a year, which is 0.2 per cent of the rev­enue they earn. Over the next 15 years, they would re­quire only R25 crore to in­cin­er­ate hfc-23 till they stop pro­duc­ing hcfc-22 by 2030. This is 0.5 per cent of the money these com­pa­nies made by sell­ing car­bon cred­its from hfc-23.

As coun­tries ne­go­ti­ate to phase down hfcs, hcfc- 22 com­pa­nies are de­mand­ing money to in­cin­er­ate hfc- 23. Chi­nese com­pa­nies are in the fore­front, but In­dian com­pa­nies are also de­mand­ing this. Un­der the Mon­treal Pro­to­col, de­vel­oped coun­tries are ob­li­gated to pro­vide fi­nan­cial and tech­ni­cal sup­port to devel­op­ing coun­tries to re­duce the use of chem­i­cals.

Ask­ing money to de­stroy hfc- 23, when these com­pa­nies have made so much money from it in the past, is not only un­fair but un­eth­i­cal. The In­dian govern­ment should not sup­port this de­mand of its in­dus­try. In­stead it should en­act a law to make it manda­tory for the com­pa­nies to de­stroy hfcs. This will not only show­case In­dia’s lead­er­ship po­si­tion in deal­ing with hfc is­sues, but also help the In­dian govern­ment gain a foothold while ne­go­ti­at­ing its phase down.

If su­per green­house gas HFC-23 is not de­stroyed at source, all the HCFC22 man­u­fac­tur­ing units across the world would re­lease over 2 bil­lion tonnes of CO e into the 2 at­mos­phere by 2020

Com­mon re­frig­er­ant HCFC-22 de­pletes the ozone layer. Its by-prod­uct HFC-23 is a su­per green­house gas

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