Cooling solutions

Finding alternatives for super-polluting technology we cannot do without

Usage of cooling technology is increasing rapidly as more and more of the global population adopts electrified technology and faces a warming climate. Up to ten air conditioners are expected to be sold every second for the next 30 years.  

Cooling has an important role to play in improving outcomes for food security through efficient food storage and transport, and for human health through advanced medical technology, among other uses. Most cooling technology used today however involves the use of potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). 

Climate-friendly solutions are available. Many HFCs can be replaced by low-warming potential and/or natural alternatives. Advances in regulation of the use of HFCs and new low-warming potential replacements have the potential to nearly entirely eliminate HFCs.  

Cooling is also a highly energy intensive sector, accounting for or 10% of all global electricity consumption. Finding ways to improve energy efficiency of cooling technology thus promises to double the emissions reduction impacts of reducing HFCs. 

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CFCs, HFCs, and Kigali 

Early cooling gases known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were responsible for damage to the ozone layer protecting the earth from the sun's harmful ultraviolet light radiation and damage to crops and human health. The Montreal Protocol was successful in reducing CFCs, however CFCs were replaced by HFCs which had different, but equally dangerous impacts on the atmosphere.  

HFCs are among the most potent warming agents known and are entirely human made. The most abundantly used HFC (HFC-23) is 3,790 times more potent than carbon dioxide. HFCs are known as super pollutants because of this effect. HFCs are also found in aerosols and other chemical products such as fire extinguishers. 

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol is the primary international regulation pushing countries and industry to reduce the use of HFCs. The CCAC has played a major role in advocacy for the adoption and implementation of the Amendment and continues to lead efforts to strengthen high-level support and disseminate information about reducing HFCS. 

Without the Kigali Amendment, HFC emissions are projected to raise global temperatures by 0.3-0.5°C by 2100.  

Main emissions Sources

Nearly 80% of HFC usage comes from refrigeration and air conditioning used in residential, transport, and industrial settings. HFCs are also found in industrial chemicals used for aerosols and fire extinguishers. 

HFC Alternatives

Refrigeration and air-conditioning are essential to modern lifestyles and will face increasing demand in a warming planet. Nearly all HFCs used in these technologies can be replaced with low-global warming potential alternatives.  

Energy Efficiency

Cooling is responsible for 10% of all energy consumption. The benefits of reducing HFCs can be more than doubled by improved energy efficiency in the cooling sector.


HFCs were introduced to replace chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which damaged stratospheric ozone and were successfully reduced under the Montreal Protocol.


Ending production and use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) could avoid up to 0.4°C of global warming by 2100. By combining energy efficiency improvements with the transition away from HFCs, the world could avoid cumulative greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 4-8 years of total annual global greenhouse gas emissions at 2018 levels.  

This would mean that by 2030, all stationary air conditioning and refrigeration is replaced with the highest-efficiency and climate friendly refrigerants currently available. Three-quarters of the avoided emissions would come from energy efficiency – equivalent to an average 40% efficiency improvement.  

If the policies outlined in the Kigali Amendment were fully implemented we could achieve a 56% reduction in cooling-derived emissions by 2050. 

What Can Be Done

Reducing HFC emissions requires concerted action starting with national planning and policy making in line with Kigali Amendment goals. To date the Amendment is showing success in reducing HFC emissions with countries applying the following steps: 

  • Ratify and comply with the control measures of the Kigali Amendment. 

  • Replace high-global warming potential hydrofluorocarbons with low- or zero-global warming potential alternatives, combined with improvements in lifecycle energy efficiency. 

  • Improve insulation materials and building designs to avoid the use of or reduce the need for air-conditioners. 


Eliminating HFC usage could reduce global warming by 0.4°C by 2100 – a significant contribution to keeping warming within 1.5°C as under the Paris Agreement.  

In combination with other warming mitigation efforts, this will dampen the demand for extra cooling equipment worldwide and reduce the risk of the climate crossing dangerous warming tipping points.  

Supporting increased access to sustainable and efficient cold chains also promises benefits for food wastage and the methane emissions derived from it.  Each year one-third of all the food produced for human consumption is lost. Lack of effective refrigeration directly results in the loss of 13 per cent of total food production – enough to feed around 950 million people. Improving cold chains and reducing these losses could thus prevent 19–21 gigatons of CO2-equivalent emissions cumulatively by 2050. 

What we do

The CCAC continues to advocate for high-level policy and regulatory action on HFCs globally. 
This involves: 

  • Raising high-level awareness of the relevance of the cooling sector to combating climate change and mobilizing political support for ambitious action and financing. 

  • Promoting the universal ratification and implementation of the Kigali Amendment. 

  • Demonstrating how to accelerate reductions of HFC consumption and emission and enhance energy efficiency through: (1) technical reports, case studies, and strategic advice, and (2) project concepts that help developing countries advance the HFC phase-down and/or demonstrate zero or low-GWP and energy efficient cooling technologies. 

  • Developing and disseminating tools and guidance to help partner countries: identify and adopt zero or low-GWP, energy efficient alternative technologies; enhance energy efficiency for new and existing equipment; reduce the needs for cooling through nature based and passive solutions; and promote alternative technologies and proper HFC disposal in government operations.  

  • Providing guidance on how to include HFC emissions reductions in countries’ updated NDCs and national plans. 

  • Collaborating with cooling industry partners to reach commitments on their support to facilitate a faster phase-down of HFCs and/or enhanced energy efficiency. 

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