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1.1 billion at risk from lack of cooling

USA: Over 1.1 billion people are said to face immediate risks from lack of access to cooling.

A report published today by the UN-backed Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) is claimed to be the first ever report to quantify the growing risks and assess the opportunities of the global cooling challenge.

Chilling Prospects: Providing Sustainable Cooling for All shows there are over 1.1 billion people globally who face immediate risks from lack of access to cooling. The report says that cooling underpins the ability of millions to escape poverty, to keep children healthy, vaccines stable, food nutritious, and our economies productive.

The report is said to represent an urgent call to-action and specific recommendations to government policy-makers, business leaders, investors and civil society to increase access to sustainable cooling solutions for all.

“Access to cooling is now a fundamental issue of equity,” the report says, “and as temperatures hit record levels, this could also mean the difference between life or death for some.

These risks are seen as both a development and climate change issue, as they pose challenges for the health, safety, and productivity of populations across the world – especially countries in Asia and Africa where access gaps are the largest. However, the report maintains that this challenge also offers business and entrepreneurs the opportunity of major new consumer markets which want super-efficient, affordable technologies to meet their cooling needs.

“In a world facing continuously rising temperatures, access to cooling is not a luxury – it’s essential for everyday life. It guarantees safe cold supply chains for fresh produce, safe storage of life-saving vaccines, and safe work and housing conditions,” said Rachel Kyte, CEO and special representative to the United Nations secretary-general for Sustainable Energy for All.

Describing the report as a “wake-up call”, she said: “We must meet these needs in an energy efficient way, and without using ozone damaging substances. If not, the risks to life, health and the planet are significant. But there are equally important business opportunities for those that face up to the challenge and act early.”

The analysis of 52 vulnerable countries in hot climates also reveals that 470 million people in poor rural areas have no access to safe food and medicines and 630 million people in hotter, poor urban slums have little or no cooling to protect them against extreme heatwaves

The nine countries identified with the biggest populations facing significant cooling risks are India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, China, Mozambique and Sudan.

A growing middle class with limited purchasing options is said to present a different problem, with an estimated 2.3 billion only being able to afford to buy less expensive and less efficient cooling devices – a situation which could spike global energy demand with profound climate impacts. It is thought that cooling is now responsible for about 10% of global warming and growing rapidly.

Previous research indicates that by 2050, work hours lost due to excessive heat and lack of access to cooling are expected to be more than 2% and a high as 12%.

The report was produced in partnership and supported by the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program (K-CEP).

Charlotte Pera, president and CEO of Climate Works Foundation, said: “Universal access to efficient, clean cooling is a huge prize for people and the planet, and can help achieve the SDGs. The launch of Chilling Prospects is a big step toward that prize.”

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