A passionate appeal to emulate Mahatma Gandhi’s life and thoughts in the global fight against climate change marked the beginning of the ministerial segment of the Kigali meeting of the Montreal Protocol where countries are negotiating an agreement to eliminate planet-warming hydrofluorocarbons in the next 30-40 years. Erik Solheim, the head of UN Environment Programme, who opened the ministerial segment, said the world needed to draw inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, “the greatest Indian of modern times”, in its fight against climate change.
“Recently, I was in India when Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi decided to ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change…Modi has sent a message to all of us. He had said India will ratify the Paris Agreement on the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi… May be we all need to emulate the lifestyle of this greatest Indian of modern times. We all need to allow ourselves to be inspired by Gandhi. We need to remind ourselves of what he achieved. He stood up against the greatest power of that time… through non-violence and determination… and achieved his goal,” Solheim said.
“We are facing similar challenges (on climate change). If we draw inspiration from him, we can also be victorious as he was. He said we should all act in such a way that we become the change that we want to see in the world. Let us take that as the motto for this conference. Let us all become the change that we would like to see. Can we do that? Another slogan from a different country says, ‘Yes, we can. For sure, we can’,” Solheim said.
Countries here are negotiating an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that will enable the 1989 ozone-saving international arrangement to phase-out HFCs as well. HFCs, used extensively in the air-conditioning and refrigerant industry, are not ozone-depleting but are hundreds or thousands of times more dangerous than carbon dioxide in their potential to cause global warming.
An agreement on HFCs will complement the Paris Agreement, finalised in the French capital last year, in the global fight against climate change. While everyone agrees that the Montreal Protocol needs to be amended to include HFCs within its ambit, countries differ on the phase-down schedule for the HFCs. Developed countries have an early phase-down schedule, but there are disagreements over when the developing countries should start their phase-out.
Countries like India are arguing for a slower phase-down schedule in order to give their industry some more time to shift to cleaner alternatives of HFCs.
India’s Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave told the ministers this morning that developing countries “willing, eager” to contribute to the solutions being considered for climate change. “We are very close to the target. There are some issues that still need to be cleared. We feel that access to high-end technology (to enable a shift to alternatives) at costs that are affordable are crucial to the agreement. We need to act with a sense of urgency, but with a balanced approach so that societies that do not have enough resources are not burdened further,” he said.
Solheim said every country would need to strike a compromise. “We have to settle for a compromise even within our family. Country policies are run on compromises. Surely, we will have to seek compromises in international negotiations as well,” he said.
Gina McCarthy, head of the Environment Protection Agency of the United States, said the compromise deal needed to be struck on Thursday night itself to enable the countries to give finishing touches to the agreement on Friday, the concluding day of the week-long meetings.