A breakthrough in the deadlock over greenhouse gas hydroflurocarbons (HFCs) happened late Wednesday evening at the UN's Montreal Protocol on ozone depleting substances with nearly 200 countries agreeing to hold "informal discussions".

The developing nations fighting to keep HFCs out of the Protocol, which deals with production as well as consumption of ozone depleting gases, were able to buy some time with the European Union proposing an amendment to only hold informal discussions on the contentious issue.

Phase-out of hydrochlorofluorcarbons

The proposed draft says countries will hold "informal discussions on mechanisms for ensuring a sustainable phase-out of HCFCs in Article 5 countries as well as all issues in relation to management of HFCs for all parties and how to address HFC management in 2015." Article 5 countries include mostly developing nations.

Though this is a dilution of the proposal made by the US and other countries, which called for a contact group to hold negotiations on amending the Montreal Protocol to bring hydrochlorofluorocarbons (or HCFCs) and HFCs under it, the agreement by developing countries as well as Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, to hold informal talks at the Montreal Protocol is being seen as a step forward.

Avipsa Mahapatra, International Climate Policy Analyst at Environmental Investigation Agency, said, "All the sectors dealing with HFCs today were also the ones dealing with CFCs. So, it makes sense for it to be dealt with under the Montreal Protocol, which already has the institutions and mechanisms for phasing out HFCs."

Amendment of Montreal Protocol

Many policy-makers at the talks being held in Paris also felt that India's decision to not oppose discussions on HFCs at the Montreal Protocol was a leap forward. India had been leading the countries opposed to the amendment to the Protocol for the last six years. However, following bilateral talks between India and the US, India has now softened its stance.

On Wednesday, Jordan was leading the Gulf countries in opposing the formation of contact group for negotiations on HFCs. These countries, along with other developing nations such as Venezuela and Argentina, have not agreed to any formal meetings, or formation of contact groups for negotiations on the issue.

"The deadlock continues but we are better placed today than we were six months ago," Bhaskar Deol, India Representative at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said.