From Paris to Kigali – India to leapfrog to climate friendly technologies while achieving its development goals

India's ratification of the Paris Agreement on October 2 is a reaffirmation of the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi – the importance of leading a sustainable lifestyle – that is so central to the Indian ethos. India had played a lead role in forming the Paris agreement, and emerged as a prominent, constructive and responsible voice in global discussions to mitigate climate change.

The climate change negotiations between developed and developing nations is a testimony to global cooperation, be it the Montreal Protocol, Kyoto Protocol or Paris Agreement. This weekend, signatories to the 1989 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer will convene in Kigali, Rwanda to work on a major amendment targeted at the phasedown of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – a very potent greenhouse gas used in refrigerants and air conditioning.
This will be followed by UNFCCC's (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) next climate change summit COP 22 in Marrakech, Morocco in November. While the Montreal Protocol is now ratified by 197 countries, the Paris agreement has been ratified by 63 countries representing 52.11% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Governments from 191 countries have also gathered at the 39th Triennial Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation to discuss curbing of greenhouse gas emissions in the aviation sector. Additionally, the International Maritime Organisation is urging governments to ratify the London Protocol treaty, which regulates the dumping of wastes at sea in order to ensure the universal application of its precautionary approach towards protection of the marine environment.

India is looking at Kigali with a positive outlook to collaborate towards achieving climate change mitigation goals through this route as well. India has proposed that in order to phase out HFCs, developed countries must take the lead and begin the process immediately and then developing countries could join the process when actions in the former have led to both technological maturity as well as reductions in the prices of the new technologies associated with their large-scale use.

A few days ago on World Ozone Day, India announced major new collaborative initiatives for R&D on climate-friendly refrigerants so as to develop technology to mitigate the impact of refrigerant gases on the ozone layer. This collaboration of research institutes and industry will create a larger ecosystem for developing sustainable solutions. This will help India leapfrog to technologies with lower climate impact while achieving its development agenda.

The Montreal Protocol discussions will centre on setting clear HFC phasedown deadlines for developed and developing economies and creating international collaborations for alternate technology. India will have an advantage here because it is now a part of the solution; Indian companies are already working on patent free solutions to create alternatives to HFCs. It is significant that Godrej has already introduced hydrocarbon-based air conditioners with vanishingly low greenhouse gas impacts. This will give India better heft in Marrakech.

If things go as planned, by the end of this year, the Paris Agreement will become binding under international law. COP22 will have worked out the terms for standardising mitigation verification and ensuring climate financial flow from developed to developing nations. India will need to take this opportunity to work along with others and determine processes to enhance the credibility of national actions to mitigate climate change.

In the last two years, India has made great strides in diversifying its energy mix by moving towards renewable sources like solar and wind. The International Solar Alliance launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Paris is progressing in boosting access to efficient solar technology. The country will also increase proportion of natural gas in its energy mix from existing 6.5% to 15%.

In balancing its development imperatives with the need to have a sustainable environmental footprint, India has the unique opportunity to lead the world in sustainable development. With momentum building towards the ratification and operationalisation of the Paris Agreement, and the amendment of the Montreal Protocol, 2016 is likely to be a game changer for climate change, and for India.