Has India tossed out the Kama Sutra and come up with another way of screwing the world?

The country is getting in the way of international efforts to protect the climate by phasing out HFCs.

HFCs have become popular coolants since CFCs were phased out under the Montreal Protocol, a 1987 treaty to protect the ozone layer. Today, more than 100 million air conditioners use HFCs in the U.S. alone, and lots of fridges too. The switch from CFCs to HFCs helped save the ozone layer, but it turns out that HFCs are terrible for the climate. And as the ozone heals but the weather goes bonkers, world leaders from U.S. President Barack Obama to Chinese President Xi Jinping have been pledging to work together to stamp out the use of HFCs.

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India’s leaders have publicly voiced support for efforts to ban the use of HFCs by amending the Montreal Protocol. But when it came to crunch time during meetings in Bangkok this week, the nation’s negotiators prevented formal discussion of making any such changes. From Bloomberg:

India is blocking an international plan to reduce the polluting gases used in air conditioners and refrigerators, saying negotiators are trying to use the wrong treaty to bring about changes.

International envoys have sought to bypass log-jammed United Nations climate-treaty talks by handing responsibility for reducing hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, to the Montreal Protocol. That’s an instrument designed to protect the ozone layer rather than the climate.

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India’s envoys tried to strike proposed amendments to the protocol from the agenda of a week-long meeting in Bangkok, according to David Doniger, a policy director at the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council. After failing to do so, they’ve blocked formal talks on two planned amendments, allowing only informal discussions on how to manage the gases, he said.

India’s The Hindu newspaper reports that the country’s negotiators are worried about the costs of replacing HFC-based cooling systems:

The Indian government had internally expressed apprehensions that Indian industry would be pushed to buy proprietary technology from companies in the U.S. and elsewhere at a very high cost to make the transition without adequate financial support. …

A source in the Indian negotiating team on the issue told The Hindu, “We have asked the U.S. to provide us data and information on the economics of making the technological shift but as yet they have not come back with the information.”

He added, “Unless there is clarity on the costs and technological changes involved at the bilateral task force, we cannot expect our position to change.”

Though India has been the main obstructionist, it hasn’t been the only country to shy away this week from plans to tweak the Montreal Protocol. Brazil and China have also been causing some problems during negotiations, The Hindu reports.

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