UN Report: Climate-Friendly Cooling Could Cut Years of GHG Emissions

International action to make cooling appliances more energy efficient and climate friendly could prevent as much as 460 billion metric tons of GHG emissions – roughly equal to eight years of global emissions at 2018 levels – over the nexy four decades, according to a new report from the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the International Energy Agency (IEA).

More specifically, the report says reductions of between 210 and 460 billion metric tons of CO2e emissions can be achieved in the next 40 years through actions to improve the energy efficiency of cooling systems anda trasition to climate-friendly refrigerants, the report says.

“Nations must deliver massive cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions to get on track to limit global temperature rise this century to 1.5°C (2.7°F). This is critical to minimizing the disastrous impacts of climate change,” said Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director. These effort are “critical” to reaching the goals of the Paris clinate change agreement.

“As nations invest in COVID-19 recovery, they have an opportunity to use their resources wisely to reduce climate change, protect nature and reduce risks of further pandemics. Efficient, climate-friendly cooling can help to achieve all of these goals,” Andersen added.

The Cooling Emissions and Policy Synthesis Report, which was released on July 17, states that there are currently 3.6 billion cooling appliances in use, and that we will need up to 14 billion by 2050, if all cooling needs are to be met.

Coordinated international efforts to make these billions of new appliances more climate friendly could save between 210 and 460 billion metric tonnes of CO2e greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) over the next 40 years. A figure that equals eight years worth of emissions for the entire world, at 2018 levels. 

The report states that ratified countries can institutionalize many of the needed actions into their implementation of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which fully implemented has the capability of preventing up to 0.4°C (0.7°F) of global warming by 2100.

In the report, the IEA estimates that if we are able to double the energy efficiency of air conditioning units, by 2050 we would reduce the electricity need by 1,300 gigawatts at peak demand. For comparison, that amount is equal to “all the coal-fired power generation capacity in China and India in 2018,” according to a press release from UNEP and IEA.

Focused action on energy efficiency will also bring many other benefits, according to the report. These include increased access to life-saving cooling, improved air quality, and reduced food loss and waste.

Some of the policy options available are:

  • Ratification of the Kigali Amendment, and international initiatives like the Cool Coalition and the Biarritz Pledge for Fast Action on Efficient Cooling.
  • The creation of National Cooling Action Plans
  • Development and implementation of minimum energy performance standards and energy labeling.
  • Development and improvement of building codes to reduce the demand for refrigerants and mechanical cooling.
  • Sustainable cold chains to reduce food waste.
  • Campaigns to stop harmful product dumping (of obsolete technology to developing markets).

You can read the full (peer reviewed) report here.

Read the cover story on the redefinition of Clean Cooling from the latest Acceleratemagazine here.

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