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New Report: India's Long Term Hydrofluorocarbon Emissions
29 May 2015

India is following the Hydrochlorofluorocarbon Phaseout Management Plan (HPMP) as part of its international commitment under the Montreal Protocol to mitigate consumption of ozone depleting substances. This transition is almost complete in developed countries. However, the phaseout of Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) has largely resulted in a transition towards Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are potent greenhouse gases. Within India, almost all refrigeration and air-conditioning systems produced and marketed use HCFC-22. The impending transition away from HCFCs would in all probability lead to higher consumption and emission of HFCs in India.

If India moves towards HFCs across sectors, there will be significant increase in the emissions of HFCs. However, the pace and magnitude of these emissions is not well understood. The Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW, India) along with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA, Austria) has recently published a joint report on ‘India's Long Term Hydrofluorocarbon Emissions’.

Key Findings

The report finds that with economic growth and increasing per-capita incomes, more and more people will buy air-conditioners, refrigerators, as well as personal vehicles. Higher penetration of all these technologies in the residential and commercial sectors forms the key driver of higher consumption and emission of HFCs. If HFC's consumption is not phased down, total HFC emissions will increase to 500 MtCO2-eq in 2050. This is based on the assumption that HFCs used as alternatives in developed countries will replace HCFCs in India as well. The biggest share of HFC emissions will be taken up by the residential and commercial cooling sectors (~35 % and ~28% respectively in 2050), followed by mobile air-conditioning in cars (~15%), and then commercial refrigeration (14%). All other sectors put together will have a low share in India's total HFC emissions.

Figure 1: India's long term HFC emissions across sectors

The HFC debate is part of a wider climate policy debate, and hence it becomes important to place India's potential future HFC emissions in the context of India's long term carbon dioxide emissions. We compare HFC and carbon dioxide emissions sector by sector and also present overall country level comparisons. At the sector level this means that we compare the indirect emissions from energy use in respective sectors with direct HFC emissions. The report finds that the share of global warming impact of HFC emissions compared to carbon dioxide emissions in 2050 is highest for the commercial refrigeration sector, at 50%, which is mainly due to the high leakage rates experienced in this sector. This is followed by the commercial cooling sector and then residential cooling sector, and the share of HFC's global warming impact is over one-third for both these sectors in 2050. For mobile air-conditioning in cars, this figure stands at 22%. For all other sectors this share is fairly low, which is consistent with findings from other international assessments. In terms of HFC's contribution to India's overall greenhouse gas emissions, HFCs contribute 5.4% of India's combined carbon dioxide and HFC emission related global warming impact in 2050. The cumulative global warming impact of HFC emissions in India's total carbon dioxide and HFC emissions between 2015 and 2050 is 3.9%.

Figure 2: Share of global warming impact of HFC emissions in sectoral GHG emissions in 2050

We also undertake sensitivity analysis on economic growth as well as leakage rates, which are the key variables determining our results. The report finds for a lower economic growth scenario, India's HFC emissions will be 324 MtCO2-eq in 2050, and this figure is 35% lower compared to our Reference scenario HFC emissions. However, the share of India's HFC emissions in the combined global warming impact of carbon dioxide and HFC emissions will still be 5.5% in 2050, which is similar to our reference case results. When we do sensitivity analysis on leakage rates, The report finds that relative to the reference leakage rate scenario, total HFC emissions in 2050 increase by 29% in the high leakage rate scenario, and decrease by 39% in the low leakage rate scenario and total emissions vary from 307 MtCO2-eq to 645 MtCO2-eq in 2050 depending on the assumptions around leakage rate.

With the help of our modelling based estimates of India's long term HFC emissions, and the targets of phasing down India's HFC consumption as expressed in India's amendment proposal to the Montreal Protocol, we can estimate the potential of HFC emissions avoided if the Indian amendment proposal is accepted. Looking at emissions only until 2050, the authors find that 4.2 GtCO2eq. is avoided between 2010 and 2050, which is 64% of the total HFC that will emitted between 2010 and 2050 if consumption is not frozen. Between 2050 and 2100, however, avoided HFC emissions amount to almost 41 GtCO2eq. We also discuss consumption of HFCs across some important sectors, and conclude our discussions by noting the limitations of our research as well as key issues for future research. Since detailed sector-by-sector analysis of India’s long-term HFC emissions has not been conducted so far, our research is an important contribution to the literature. Through our research, we hope to contribute to India's HFC emission mitigation policy, as well as larger GHG policy choices amid international climate negotiations.

Read: India's Long Term Hydrofluorocarbon Emissions

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