Cooling is necessary in today’s world, and there is no doubt that the need for cooling will continue to increase in the coming days. At present, the energy sector accounts for about 72% of global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. According to a recent UNEP (UN Environment Programme) report, “On current growth trends, cooling equipment represents 20% of total electricity consumption today – and is expected to more than double by 2050. GHG emissions from power consumption will increase, alongside leakage of refrigerant gases, most of which have a much higher global warming potential than carbon dioxide. Under a business-as-usual scenario, emissions from cooling are predicted to account for more than 10% of global emissions in 2050.”

One of the most important global issues that has been discussed in detail in the recently concluded COP 28 is how the cooling sector can reduce its GHG emissions. Although it goes without saying that the current global scenario is not adequately conducive to foster measures to (at least) prevent further deterioration of the global climate, the event has concluded that taking key measures to reduce the power consumption of cooling equipment would cut at least 60% of predicted 2050 sectoral emissions, provide universal access to life-saving cooling, take the pressure off energy grids and save trillions of dollars by 2050.

The ‘Global Cooling Watch’ report

The report titled ‘Keeping it Chill: How to meet cooling demands while cutting emissions;’ published during COP 28, by the UNEP-led Cool Coalition; has laid out sustainable cooling measures in three areas: passive cooling, higher-energy efficiency standards, and a faster phase down of climate-warming refrigerants. Following the measures outlined in these areas would deliver the 60% cuts; adding rapid power grid decarbonization would reduce sectoral emissions by 96%. The report has been released in support of the Global Cooling Pledge, a joint initiative between the United Arab Emirates as host of COP28 and the Cool Coalition. As of December 05, 2023, over 60 countries have signed up to the ‘pledge’ with commitments to reduce the climate impact of the cooling sector.

Dr. Sultan Al Jaber
President, COP28

Commenting on the report, COP28 President Dr. Sultan Al Jaber has said, “As temperatures rise, it is critical that we work together to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions from the cooling sector while increasing access to sustainable cooling. This access is especially important for the most vulnerable communities, who have often contributed the least to climate change but are the most exposed to its impacts.”

Focusing on the desired future direction of the cooling sector, Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, has said, “The cooling sector must grow to protect everyone from rising temperatures, maintain food quality and safety, keep vaccines stable and economies productive. But this growth must not come at the cost of the energy transition and more intense climate impacts. Countries and the cooling sector must act now to ensure low-carbon cooling growth. Fortunately, the solutions are available today. Getting energy efficient, sustainable cooling right offers an opportunity to cut global warming, improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people, and realize huge financial savings.”

Inger Andersen
Executive Director of UNEP

How to prevent the current unsustainable growth trends?

As per the report, climate change, population and income growth, and urbanization are increasing cooling demand, which is necessary to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Around 1.2 billion people in Africa and Asia lack access to cooling services, putting lives at risk from extreme heat, reducing farmers’ incomes, driving food loss and waste, and hindering universal vaccine access.

It states, rising demand for often inefficient equipment, including air-conditioners and refrigerators, will require large investments in electricity generation and distribution infrastructure. Inefficient equipment will also result in high electricity bills for end users, particularly in Africa and South Asia, where the fastest growth is predicted.

Makhtar Diop
Managing Director, International Finance Corporation

Highlighting the remedial action needed to prevent the deteriorating scenario, Makhtar Diop, Managing Director, International Finance Corporation, said, “The private sector has a huge role to play in financing and driving innovation to advance sustainable cooling, which can help fulfil vital local development needs and support global carbon reduction targets. We are pleased to contribute to the Global Cooling Stocktake Report and to support the Global Cooling Pledge.”

Expected benefits from following the report’s recommendations

If the report’s recommendations are followed properly, they have potential to reduce the projected 2050 emissions from business-as-usual cooling by around 3.8 billion tons of CO2e. That would lead to:

  • Allow an additional 3.5 billion people to benefit from refrigerators, air conditioners or passive cooling by 2050.
  • Reduce electricity bills for end users by US$1 trillion in 2050, and by US$17 trillion cumulatively between 2022 – 2050.
  • Reduce peak power requirements by between 1.5 and 2 terawatts (TW) – almost double the EU’s total generation capacity today.
  • Avoid power generation investments in the order of US$4 to US$5 trillion.
  • Adding in rapid grid decarbonization would bring the total emission cuts up to 96%. G20 countries represent 73% of the 2050 emission reduction potential.

Significant points in the report

The report has outlined key actions to take in passive cooling strategies, higher energy efficiency standards and a faster phase down of climate-warming Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants through the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.

As said earlier, till 2022, while more than 80% of countries had at least one regulatory instrument in place in these areas, implementation remained inadequate, and an integrated approach is missing. Only 30% of countries have regulations that enable action on all the three fronts.

Passive cooling measures – such as insulation, natural shading, ventilation and reflective surfaces – can dramatically reduce cooling loads. These can be provided, in part, by the development and enforcement of building energy codes that incorporate passive cooling, and urban design.

Such strategies can curb the growth in demand for cooling capacity in 2050 by 24%, resulting in capital cost savings in avoided new cooling equipment of up to US$3 trillion, and reducing emissions by 1.3 billion tons of CO2e.

Higher efficiency standards and better labelling of all cooling equipment would triple the global average efficiency of cooling equipment in 2050 from today’s levels, delivering 30% of modelled energy savings, lowering energy bills and improving the resilience and financial viability of cold chains.

Critical implementing policies include regularly updated Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS), financial instruments to encourage demand for higher efficiency products and regulations to avoid the dumping of low efficiency cooling equipment into developing countries.

Possibilities to accelerate actions beyond Kigali Amendment

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.

However, 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 required for implementing the pledge

The total life-cycle cost savings of $22 trillion ($17 trillion in power costs savings and $5 trillion in power generation investments) will make the sustainable cooling transition affordable. Existing business models need to be scaled to use these savings to reduce upfront costs and make the transition affordable for all.

Financial tools include on-bill financing (when a utility pays for an upgrade and recovers the cost through monthly power bills), risk-sharing facilities, public and private investments, green mortgages, seed financing for cold chains. For many developing countries, dedicated concessional finance will be needed as well as incorporating sustainable cooling criteria into banks’ lending practices.

LtoR: Eng. Mohamed Hamel and Haitham Al Ghais

Reactions from a few important quarters

During the 4th high-level meeting of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the topic of COP 28 was discussed. The Meeting was co-chaired by Eng. Mohamed Hamel, Secretary General for GECF, and Haitham Al Ghais, Secretary General for OPEC. Both leaders expressed their heartfelt congratulations to the United Arab Emirates, an OPEC and GECF member country, for the excellent organization of COP 28, the record participation, and the consensual and positive outcome. They reiterated that the oil and gas industry will play a constructive and critical role in sustainable development and poverty eradication, while contributing to a just, orderly and inclusive energy transitions, in particular through enhancing efficiencies and developing and deploying advanced technologies, such as Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS). They stressed that continued investment in oil and natural gas is essential to meet future demand and ensure global market stability.

International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) was directly engaged with the COP28 Presidency to accelerate the energy transition and advance in the pathway to the 1.5°C goal. IRENA’s Global Renewables Hub put the rapid scale up of renewable energy at the heart of this year’s COP. Together with the Global Renewables Alliance (GRA) and REN21 as a strategic partner, IRENA built a shared space at the centre of the Blue Zone, bringing together policymakers, industry experts and key stakeholders from around the world to work together and drive the renewable-based energy transition.

By P. K. Chatterjee (PK)

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