Biden pushes India to cut super-warming chemicals

While Vice President Joe Biden may have left India at the end of last week without a deal on super-greenhouse gases, he nonetheless succeeded in putting the issue front and centre of US – India relations, according to a report by Lisa Friedman for Energy and Environment Publishing.

Speaking at the Bombay Stock Exchange, Biden called for the two countries to curb the refrigerants known as hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs.  Far more potent as atmospheric warmers than CO2,  if left unchecked they are expected to contribute to 19 percent of global warming by 2050.

Friedman notes that India and China are among the biggest producers of HFCs and have long been the two biggest holdouts to a global deal under the Montreal Protocol.  But this summer the deal struck between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping represented a breakthrough.

Paul Bledsoe, a Senior Fellow on Energy and Climate at the German Marshall Fund of the United States said:

I think there was a sense India was going to be the last holdout and it might take a while. But this level of attention is unprecedented, I think India is now isolated on the issue and is going to see significant pressure – not just from the US, but the Micronesians and low-lying states, as well.

As the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will visit the White House in September, Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, hopes a deal is on the horizon:

When India agrees to the HFC amendment, as China’s President Xi did in his summit last month with President Obama, the world will be assured of climate mitigation equivalent to 100 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050 -five to ten times more that the Kyoto Protocol has done to date.  This will avoid up to 0.5ºC of warming by the end of the century, and significantly slow down climate impacts.