By Sharon Atieno

As global temperatures rise and the growing energy demands of air conditioning threaten to emit more greenhouse gases, over 20 leaders have committed to a new global effort on clean and efficient cooling, which can make a huge positive impact on climate change, help achieve sustainable development and save money.

The new global “Cool Coalition” of 23 leading figures and institutions says action on clean, efficient cooling can save up to US$ 2.9 trillion in energy use through 2050 and avoid almost 0.4°C of planet warming.

“Demand for cooling is growing, as it must if we are to provide equitable access to a technology that keeps our children healthy, vaccines stable, food nutritious and economies productive,” said Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director of UN Environment, and a key leader of the coalition.

“But we also can’t allow emissions to get out of hand. The Cool Coalition offers a three-in-one opportunity to cut global warming, improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people and make huge financial savings.”

2018 was the fourth-warmest year on record, with unprecedented peak temperatures recorded across the planet, from 43°C in Baku, Azerbaijan, to the low 30s across Scandinavia. Currently, 30 per cent of the world’s population faces potentially dangerous temperatures for more than 20 days a year with heat waves causing 12,000 deaths annually.

“In a warming world, cooling is a necessity, not a luxury. We need to provide it to the vulnerable populations who currently have no electricity,” said Rachel Kyte, Chief Executive Officer of Sustainable Energy for All.

“This necessity is something that can be delivered within a 1.5 degree-pathway. We need to provide sustainable cooling at speed and scale so that we can ensure everyone has safe food, safe vaccines, and comfort at work. Hundreds of millions of people at risk today from extreme heat need protection and we must protect them in a way that also protects the planet from increased carbon emissions.”

Air-conditioned building

Amidst rising temperatures and spending power, the number of air conditioners in use is expected to rise from 1.2 billion today to 4.5 billion by 2050. If the world continues down this path, emissions from the sector will grow 90 percent more than the 2017 levels by 2050.

Many cooling technologies use refrigerants that can be 10,000 times more potent greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. On the first day of 2019, the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol started phasing down these gases, known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). This amendment can deliver almost 0.4°C of avoided warming from addressing these gases alone.

A combined strategy to phase down HFCs along with improvements in energy efficiency can potentially double the climate benefits – while saving up to USD 2.9 trillion globally through 2050 by using less electricity, according to figures from the International Energy Agency.

The Cool Coalition launched at the First Global Conference on Synergies between the 2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement is a unified front that links action across the Kigali Amendment, Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals with the aim to inspire ambition and accelerate action on the transition to clean and efficient cooling.

“Affordable and clean cooling is essential for sustainable economic development in Africa, the health of citizens, and the well-being of the planet. We know that comprehensive policies and clear action plans result in the adoption of energy efficient products,” said Vincent Biruta, Rwanda’s Minister of Natural Resources, Land, Forests, Environment and Mining.

“That’s why Rwanda is working with our partners to implement a clear set of standards and labels for refrigerators and air conditioners. I encourage all nations to prioritise clean cooling and work together to achieve the goals set through the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.”

The coalition includes ministers of environment from Chile and Rwanda and Foreign Affairs from Denmark as well as the heads of Danish engineering firm Danfoss and ENGIE, and the leaders of civil society, research, academia and intergovernmental institutions. Contact: nijman@un.org, tc@tca.tc, Beth@SEforAll.org

 

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