It is hard to keep cool about the pace of progress in reducing carbon pollution and ensuring a stable climate. The recent IPCC and Gap reports sound the loudest alarm bells yet. We know however how to keep the earth cool – change is happening, it is just not fast or consistent enough.
A huge opportunity to reduce pollution of our precious climate lies in the cooling sector. Described as a ‘blind spot’ by the IEA, the sector is responsible for a double whammy in pollution terms. Cooling technology such as air-conditioners and refrigerators use super-polluting F-gases that can be a thousand times or more polluting than CO2. At the same time cooling uses huge amounts of mostly fossil fuel energy in an inefficient manner.
As the earth heats up, as urban areas swell, as disposable incomes rise and as populations grow, especially in the hot climates, the demand for cooling is booming. Before mid-century the electricity needed for cooling will surpass that of heating. And if this demand is met in an unsustainable way, the world’s carbon budget will be blown.
That’s the bad news. The good news is there is a huge market for efficient, clean cooling. Global sales of cooling equipment are expected to increase from $140bn today to $260bn by 2050. Not only is there money to be made, but cooling can contribute significantly to the Sustainable Development Goals – we need cooling for vaccines and medicine, to keep working conditions productive, to create comfortable shelter, to maintain the nutrition, safety and taste of our food and drink, to allow children to concentrate better when studying and so on and so on.
Luckily all governments have woken up to the need for efficient, clean cooling. The historic Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol sets a straight line through to the 2040’s for reducing super-polluting F-gases. At the same time all parties to the Protocol have opened up the opportunity to link this critical transformation with improvements in the efficiency of cooling. In doing so it may be possible to reduce around a degree Celsius of warming by the end of the century.
Progress is underway. Policy makers in at least 27 countries are writing national cooling plans. Work is underway for over 20 new national Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) to be proposed in the next few years for air-conditioners and fridges. Banks are mobilizing capital for cooling at an unprecedented rate. And some companies are leading the charge with more efficient, clean products.
But there is no room for complacency. Minimum energy performance standards need to be commensurate with the climate challenge, deliver costs savings to consumers in lower energy bills and apply to products exported not just sold domestically. Banks need to offer attractive financial support including allowing for operational cost savings to help payback capital costs or by offering cooling as a service. New products need to be affordable, otherwise the 1.1billion people, that SE4All estimate lack access to cooling, will continue to suffer.
Our contribution, the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program, seeks to address these opportunities and challenges head on. Active in over 50 countries, providing technical support to governments and businesses, and rallying communities through new initiatives such as the Million Cool Roofs Challenge, we hope our efforts will help everyone keep their cool!
Dan Hamza-Goodacre is Executive Director of the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program.
For more information see www.k-cep.org