India and China have reversed course and now support efforts by the U.S. to expand a treaty to cover a new batch of refrigerants tied to climate change, according to participants in the talks.
The shift by the world’s two most populous nations during talks on an accord is seen as a hopeful sign for advocates trying to cut the use of hydrofluorocarbons. Saudi Arabia is still leading nations that oppose expanding the scope of the treaty, according to participants in negotiations that end tomorrow in Paris.
“India and China have both dramatically shifted their stance,” said Kevin Fay, executive director of a trade group that represents manufacturers of the chemicals or products that use the refrigerants, including Johnson Controls Inc. and DuPont Co.
Environmental advocates say curbing HFC use is important because the gases are more potent agents of global warming than carbon dioxide. With the growing use of air conditioning in developing nations such as India, phasing out HFCs has the potential to eliminate 90 billion tons of greenhouse gases through 2050, according to the U.S.
Fay and two environmental advocates at the meeting in Paris described the policy change outlined by China and India, which they attributed to agreements President Barack Obama achieved with each country to freeze and then reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs.
“President Obama has set the stage for the progress” at the meeting, said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development who is participating in the meeting and confirmed the shift in position of China and India.
Messages left with the press offices of the Indian and Saudi embassies in Washington weren’t immediately returned.
North American governments, the European Union and island nations at risk from rising seas because of global warming have each proposed separate plans to decrease the use of HFCs under the so-called Montreal Protocol signed in 1987 to phase out chlorofluorocarbons. CFCs were blamed for punching a hole in the ozone layer, and the treaty to cut their use was hailed as a rare success in fighting environmental risk. The use of CFCs has been cut 98 percent, as HFCs were used as a replacement.
“Because those markets are growing so fast, if the HFCs aren’t nipped in the bud, they will undo all the positive effects of the Montreal Protocol by 2050,” David Doniger, the head of climate programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said by telephone from Paris.
Using the Montreal Protocol would bypass slow-moving United Nations climate talks, which often deadlock on unrelated issues and focus on the most prevalent greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. The gases are made by companies including Dupont and Honeywell International Inc. in a $4 billion global refrigerant industry.
“We think we can do this under the right circumstances,” said Fay, whose group is called the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy.