The report highlights the importance of cooling to maintaining healthy communities; fresh vaccines and food; a stable energy supply, and productive economies. The essential nature of cooling services is underlined by the COVID-19 pandemic, as temperature-sensitive vaccines will require quick deployment around the globe; lockdowns forcing people to stay at home for long periods of time are a health concern in many hot countries.
However, increasing demand for cooling is contributing significantly to climate change. This is the result of the emissions of HFCs, CO2, and black carbon from the mostly fossil fuel-based energy that powers air conditioners and other cooling equipment.
“As governments roll out massive economic stimulus packages to deal with the economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, they have a unique opportunity to accelerate progress in efficient, climate-friendly cooling. Higher efficiency standards are one of the most effective tools governments have to meet energy and environmental objectives. By improving cooling efficiency, they can reduce the need for new power plants, cut emissions and save consumers money. This new report gives policy makers valuable insights to help them address the global cooling challenge," said Dr Fatih Birol, IEA Executive Director.
Worldwide, an estimated 3.6 billion cooling appliances are in use. The report says that if cooling is provided to everybody who needs it – and not just those who can afford it – this would require as many as 14 billion cooling appliances by 2050.
The IEA estimates that doubling the energy efficiency of air conditioning by 2050 would reduce the need for 1,300 gigawatts of additional electricity generation capacity to meet peak demand – the equivalent of all the coal-fired power generation capacity in China and India in 2018. Worldwide, doubling the energy efficiency of air conditioners could save up to $2.9 trillion by 2050 in reduced electricity generation, transmission and distribution costs alone.
Action on energy efficiency would bring many other benefits, such as increased access to life-saving cooling, improved air quality and reduced food loss and waste, the report says.
The report lays out the available policy options available that can make cooling part of climate and sustainable development solutions, including:
- International cooperation through universal ratification and implementation of the Kigali Amendment and initiatives such as the Cool Coalition and the Biarritz Pledge for Fast Action on Efficient Cooling
- National Cooling Action Plans that accelerate the transition to climate friendly cooling, and identify opportunities to incorporate efficient cooling into stronger Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement;
- Development and implementation of Minimum Energy Performance Standards and energy efficiency labelling to improve equipment efficiency.
- Promotion of building codes and other considerations to reduce demand for refrigerant and mechanical cooling, including integration of district and community cooling into urban planning, improved building design, green roofs, and tree shading;
- Campaigns to stop environmentally harmful product dumping to transform markets and avoid the burden of obsolete and inefficient cooling technologies;
- Sustainable cold-chains to both reduce food loss – a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions – and reduce emissions from cold chains.
The 48-page peer-reviewed report was authored by nine experts under the guidance of a 15-member steering committee co-chaired by Nobel laureate Mario Molina, President, Centro Mario Molina, Mexico, and Durwood Zaelke, President, Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, USA.
Climate and Clean Air Coalition partners led global efforts to pass and ratify the Kigali Amendment. Its HFC initiative worked with countries, industry and intergovernmental organizations to test and prove the feasibility of HFC alternative and climate-friendly cooling technology. It's Efficiency Cooling initiative brings together governments, intergovernmental organizations, and the private sector to build high-level political leadership and facilitate collaboration among stakeholders. The aim is to enhance energy efficiency in the cooling sector while countries implement the phase-down of HFC refrigerants under the Montreal Protocol.