Climate-friendly cooling could cut years of greenhouse gas emissions and save trillions

As the need for cooling rises, energy-efficient, climate-friendly appliances are critical to reaching the Paris Agreement goals. Experts are urging the world to focus on improved cooling in post-pandemic recovery plans.

About 3.6 billion appliances are in use now — but 14 billion will be required by 2050 to meet global cooling needs.

Coordinated international action on energy-efficient, climate-friendly cooling could avoid as much as 460 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions – roughly equal to eight years of global emissions at 2018 levels – over the next four decades, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Reductions of between 210 and 460 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions can be delivered over the next four decades through actions to improve the cooling industry’s energy efficiency together with the transition to climate-friendly refrigerants, writes a statement.

The report says countries can institutionalize many of these actions by integrating them into their implementation of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. Signatories to the Kigali Amendment have agreed to reduce the production and use of climate-warming refrigerant gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which has the potential to avoid as much as 0.4°C of global warming by 2100.

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, says UNEP.

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.

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.

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 USD 2.9 trillion by 2050 in reduced electricity generation, transmission and distribution costs alone.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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