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Branson backs $3m cooling challenge

INDIA: British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson is backing a new $3m initiative to find a more efficient residential cooling technology.

The Government of India, Mission Innovation and the Rocky Mountain Institute today launched The Global Cooling Prize, an international two-year competition to find a residential cooling technology with at least five times less climate impact than the standard room air conditioning units. 

“Air conditioning needs to become acceptable to all. It should not be a luxury as it is today,” Sir Richard Branson said at the competition’s launch. “If we carry on using the same outdated air conditioning technology the temperature of the planet will rise by 0.5 degrees by air conditioning use alone.”

The prize is supported by Government of India, Mission Innovation and will be administered by Rocky Mountain Institute, Conservation X Labs, Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy, and CEPT University. The Prize coalition will help identify the innovative cooling technology and support incubation, commercialisation, and ultimately mass adoption around the world.

According to a new report by the Rocky Mountain Institute, warming global temperatures, population growth, rising incomes, and urbanisation will lead to a five-fold increase in energy demand for air conditioners in non-OECD countries. The report, Solving the Global Cooling Challenge, says that business-as-usual measures, whilst important, are insufficient to overcome the energy and emissions impact of projected room air conditioner growth and calls for a five-times-less climate impact solution.

“The Government of India supports this innovation challenge, which aims to develop sustainable and efficient technology to provide thermal comfort to all, and invites applicants from around the world to apply for The Global Cooling Prize,” said Dr. Harsh Vardhan, union minister of science and technology, earth sciences, environment, forest and climate change at the Global Cooling Innovation Summit in New Delhi today.

“A technology developed through the Global Cooling Prize has the opportunity to capture a $20bn market and transform the global market for the better,” said Iain Campbell, senior fellow, Rocky Mountain Institute.

The Rocky Mountain Institute is a US-based organisation dedicated to sustainability research. It merged with the Carbon War Room, a group founded by Sir Richard Branson in 2014. The Carbon War Room’s purpose has been to accelerate the adoption of business solutions that reduce carbon emissions at gigaton scale and advance the low-carbon economy.

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