India tight-lipped on the issue of hydrofluorocarbons

 India did not clearly spell out its position on the issue of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) during a key UN conference here as nations debated whether to set up a contact group for discussing the proposed amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down the harmful greenhouse gas.

Paris: India did not clearly spell out its position on the issue of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) during a key UN conference here as nations debated whether to set up a contact group for discussing the proposed amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down the harmful greenhouse gas.

As nations debated pro and cons of the issue, India neither supported nor opposed it and instead merely read out a joint-bilateral statement on HFCs signed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama during their White House summit on September 30.

When contacted, Indian officials known to the development pointed out that it was done to "clarify" country's stand after Canada, while moving the amendment, referred to "a change" in India's approach on the issue.

India's unclear stand has irked the green groups attending the conference.

"I can't understand why a bilateral deal read out in multilateral forum," climate expert and deputy director general of Centre for Science and Environment, Chandra Bhushan, said.

On the opening day of the conference on Monday, India had not opposed to participate in discussing on the agenda on the issue of harmful greenhouse gas under United Nations Montreal Protocol on ozone depleting substances.

As the debate is still on, a breakthrough on the issue of HFCs is highly unlikely as oil producing gulf countries participating in a key UN conference here continued their strong opposition to the US-led nations' proposal to amend the Montreal Protocol to phase down the harmful greenhouse gas.

During the debate yesterday, oil producing Gulf nations led by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait opposed to setting up a contact group on the issue, arguing that the Montreal Protocol does not have the mandate to deal with the greenhouse gas.

They said that the issue should be discussed under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Montreal Protocol is a UN treaty signed in 1987 to ban ozone-depleting substances like chloroflurocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochloroflurocarbons (HCFCs), which were used in refrigerators and air conditions.

HFCs were brought into replace the ozone-depleting substances but it was proved later that the ozone friendly gas has a potent warming effect.

During the past six conferences, it was India which had led the Gulf States to block the use of the Montreal Protocol to phase out HFCs.

The change in Indian stand comes in the wake of a joint Indo-US statement on HFCs this year underwhich both the nations had agreed to discuss the harmful greenhouse gas under Montreal Protocol.

The Gulf countries argued that there was no alternatives to HFCs.

Sensing that evolving a consensus on setting up of a contact group is not easy, the US proposed to setting up of an informal group to discuss the mandate of the contact group and not to discuss the amendment proposal.

China said that Montreal Protocol has a role to play and everyone should work on consensus.

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