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New Delhi: Taking the lead on tackling climate change, India on Thursday said it will eliminate the use of HFC-23, a greenhouse gas that harms the ozone layer, by 2030.

The announcement came at a meeting of parties to the Montreal Protocol at Kigali in Rwanda where final negotiations are taking place to substantially reduce the use of HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) by 2030. The Montreal Protocol, which came into force in 1989, is aimed at reducing the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances in order to protect the earth’s fragile ozone layer.

HFC-23, a potent greenhouse gas with global warming potential of 14,800 times more than that of CO2, is a by-product of HCFC-22, which is used in industrial refrigeration. HCFC stands for hydrochloroflurocarbon.

Anil Madhav Dave, minister of state for environment, forests and climate change, who is leading the Indian team, has “given the go-ahead for releasing the order for incinerating the HFC–23 by producers of HCFC–22 gas," according to an official statement.

Dave clarified that companies have to internalize the cost of this environmental externality and create sufficient storage facility to take care of down time and run the incinerators to ensure that HFC-23 is not released in the atmosphere.

“It is noted that some HCFC–22 producers, even in the developed world, are not handling the HFC–23 in the most professional manner," the statement said.

As per Delhi-based think tank Centre for Science and Environment, the move will potentially check emissions of HFC-23 equivalent to 100 million tonnes of CO2 over the next 15 years.

“With this domestic legislation to control the emissions of HFC-23, India is sending a strong signal to the world that it is serious about the climate change issue," said CSE deputy director general Chandra Bhushan.

CSE stressed that with this move India has also told the world that it will control emissions of HFC-23 on its own—without any financial support from developed countries.

Environment secretary A.N. Jha, who is also attending the conference, said India’s decision “fortifies the determination and commitment of the country on climate issues".

“This will have a positive impact on the discussions on HFCs and will make the governments and producers of HCFC-22 in both developed and developing countries think on emulating this practice," Jha said.

Joint secretary M.K. Singh highlighted that even with the complete phase-out of HCFCs for usage as refrigerants under the Montreal Protocol, its production will continue for feedstock purposes.

“This production for feedstock purpose will reach one million tonnes at its peak, ensuring the incineration of HFC – 23 being produced as by-product will ensure an avoidance of more than 444 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent globally," the statement added.

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