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Asia is home to five of the top nine countries with the biggest populations facing significant cooling-related risks: India, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia. This year’s Innovate4climate (I4C) will have a priority focus on how to deliver sustainable cooling to keep people, food and medicines safe.
First, cooling is vital for both health and prosperity
Higher temperatures and lack of access to cooling will impact labor productivity and the wellbeing of populations: by 2050, work hours lost due to heat may be as high as 12% in the worst affected regions of South Asia and West Africa, or 6% of annual GDP. The lack of adequate cold storage and refrigerated transport contributes to over 1.5 million vaccine preventable deaths each year. And up to 50% of food can be lost post-harvest in developing countries that lack access to refrigeration or food cold chains.
Second, business-as-usual cooling will be a disaster for the planet
Cooling contributes to climate change by increasing demand for electricity, much of which is still generated from fossil fuels, and through leakage of refrigerants, which have a much higher global warming potential than CO2 emission. Conventional cooling devices – such as refrigerators, room air conditioners, industrial scale chillers, and other devices – account for as much as 10% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than twice the emissions generated from aviation and maritime combined. Furthermore, if left unchecked, emissions from cooling are expected to double by 2030 and triple by 2100, driven by heat waves, population growth, urbanization, and a growing middle class. Business-as-usual cooling generates a vicious cycle: as the world gets hotter, increased demand for cooling drives up levels of greenhouse gas emissions that, in turn, drive up temperatures and make access to cooling even more critical, all while endangering human safety and livelihoods.
Third, getting cooling right is a major opportunity
It has the potential to advance the internationally agreed goals of the Paris Climate Agreement; the Sustainable Development Goals; and the Montreal Protocol’s Kigali Amendment. For instance, just halving food loss with refrigeration and food cold chains could feed 1 billion undernourished people. There are investment opportunities in bringing sustainable cooling solutions to market, and there are cost saving opportunities in commercial and industrial facilities by installing efficient cooling equipment.
What will it take? On the demand side, policies and regulations must be put in place to reduce the need for cooling in residential, commercial and industrial buildings. Better thermal efficiency of buildings, for instance through improved insultation, increased air flow, and cool roofs, greatly reduces the mechanical cooling that is needed. Policy tools can also improve urban planning, for instance expand green spaces in cities. Incentives can be used to change people’s behavior towards less use of cooling and greater interest in using energy efficient appliances. There is also a need to make cooling applications in transport and logistics more efficient and climate-friendly while providing greater access to cold chains for safe transport for food and medicine, which benefits both rural and urban populations. Governments can incorporate sustainable cooling in their climate pledges (Nationally Determined Contributions) and ensure that sustainable cooling considerations are included in energy, urban, transport, agricultural and health service projects among others. On the supply side, governments can act swiftly to encourage manufacturers to improve the energy efficiency of their cooling products and to lower the global warming potential of refrigerants in line with or exceeding the obligations under the Montreal Protocol. Governments can put in place minimum energy performance standards and labeling schemes for air conditioners. They can help reduce the cost of more efficient equipment by promoting mass purchasing and deployment and promote training of cooling technicians, better equipment maintenance and new financing and business models to deliver cooling services. And governments can ramp up the generation and use of renewable energy, including through thermal storage solutions in supermarkets and large buildings to better manage peak electricity demand.
Fourth, Asia will be key for the development of sustainable cooling technologies
Many are therefore focusing on ways to reduce excess urban heat and support sustainable urban development. India, for instance, is one of the first countries to deploy highly efficient air conditioners at scale through a bulk procurement program by Energy Efficiency Service Limited (EESL). An initial bulk procurement of 100,000 AC units, with 30% greater efficiency than the market average, led to a 15% reduction in price. The World Bank has an ongoing engagement and supports EESL through technical assistance and lending.
Singapore, host of I4C, is home to the largest underground district cooling network in the world, located in the Marina Bay. The network produces and distributes chilled water from a central plant to buildings in the surrounding area, replacing individual water towers and other cooling systems. The system has reduced energy costs by a staggering forty percent while also reducing emissions, the equivalent of taking 10,000 cars off the road each year. Singapore offers a glimpse of the region’s potential in leading the way for the development and deployment of clean cooling technologies capable of meeting energy demand in a sustainable way.
This year’s I4C conference is designed to link innovation with finance. Participants will explore the latest trends in sustainable cooling innovation and will identify opportunities to bring these innovations to life.