YK Poudel

The ongoing 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) dedicated discussions to key measures aimed at slowing power growth, cutting predicted emissions by a certain percentage, and benefiting 5 billion people, as outlined by experts.

Predictions indicate that greenhouse gas emissions from the cooling sector will more than double by 2050.

A recent report, published at COP28 in Dubai, emphasises that implementing key measures to reduce the power consumption of cooling equipment could cut at least 60 percent of predicted 2050 sectoral emissions.

This strategy would provide universal access to life-saving cooling, alleviate pressure on energy grids, and result in trillions of dollars in savings by 2050.

The Global Cooling Watch report, titled “Keeping it Chill: How to meet cooling demands while cutting emissions,” led by the UN Environment Programme’s Cool Coalition, delineates sustainable cooling measures in three areas: passive cooling, higher-energy efficiency standards, and a faster phase-down of climate-warming refrigerants.

Adhering to the outlined measures in these areas would deliver a 60 percent reduction, with the addition of rapid power grid decarbonisation further reducing sectoral emissions by 96 percent.

Implementing the report’s recommendations could benefit 3.5 billion people in Asia through refrigerators, air conditioners, or passive cooling by 2050. The report also emphasizes a reduction in electricity bills for end users by USD one trillion in 2050 and USD 17 trillion cumulatively between 2022 and 2050.

Released in support of the Global Cooling Pledge, the report has garnered commitments from over 60 countries to reduce the climate impact of the cooling sector.

COP28 President Dr Sultan Al Jaber stressed the critical need to collaboratively improve energy efficiency, reduce emissions from the cooling sector, and increase access to sustainable cooling.

He emphasised the importance of this access for vulnerable communities, often the least contributors to climate change but most exposed to its impacts.

The root cause of these issues lies in the rapid and unsustainable growth in cooling. Factors such as climate change, population and income growth, and urbanisation are driving an increase in cooling demand, essential to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

Approximately 1.2 billion people in Africa and Asia lack access to cooling services, posing risks from extreme heat, reducing farmers’ incomes, causing food loss and waste, and hindering universal vaccine access.

On current growth trends, cooling equipment represents 20 percent of total electricity consumption today, and it is expected to more than double by 2050. Greenhouse gas emissions from power consumption will increase, alongside the leakage of refrigerant gases, most of which have a much higher global warming potential than carbon dioxide.

G20 countries represent 73 percent of the 2050 emission reduction potential. As of 2022, while more than 80 percent of countries have at least one regulatory instrument in place in these areas, implementation remains inadequate, lacking an integrated approach.

Measures recommended to meet the goal include passive cooling measures, such as insulation, natural shading, ventilation, and reflective surfaces. These strategies can potentially reduce cooling loads by 24 percent in 2050, resulting in capital cost savings in avoided new cooling equipment of up to USD 3 trillion and reducing emissions by 1.3 billion tonnes of CO2e.

Higher efficiency standards and better labeling of all cooling equipment are said to triple the global average efficiency of cooling equipment in 2050 from today’s levels. This would deliver 30 percent of modeled energy savings, lowering energy bills, and improving the resilience and financial viability of cold chains.

The enforcement of the Kigali Amendment is crucial. The world has committed to phasing down HFCs through the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol – a global deal designed to protect the ozone layer and slow climate change.

Faster action is possible and can achieve a halving of HFC emissions in 2050 compared to the Kigali phase-down timetable through rapid uptake of better technologies in new equipment, better refrigerant management, and stronger national enforcement.

Finance is critical, and the report suggests total life-cycle cost savings of USD 22 trillion will make the sustainable cooling transition affordable. Existing business models need to be scaled to utilise these savings, incorporating sustainable cooling criteria into banks’ lending practices, and providing dedicated concessional finance for developing countries.