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Cooling under the spotlight at COP28

DUBAI: Refrigeration and air conditioning will come under the global spotlight when world leaders at COP28 will be urged to sign a pact to broaden access to sustainable cooling.

The Global Cooling Pledge, developed by UNEP’s Cool Coalition in collaboration with the United Arab Emirates is an initiative aimed at reducing cooling-related carbon dioxide emissions by at least 68% by 2050, compared to 2022 levels. This is equivalent to a saving of 78 billion tonnes of CO2e.

The Global Cooling Pledge will be launched on December 5 during COP28, the annual climate conference which starts tomorrow in Dubai. 

The pledge will commit countries to making significant investments to transition towards sustainable cooling technologies. Proposed measures will include a call for greater energy efficiency, better building codes, nature-based solutions and faster HFC phase down where possible. At the same time it will also improve access to cooling for populations to mitigate heat stress, enabling productive work, reducing food loss and enhancing healthcare. 

The initiative is expected to improve the lives of hundreds of millions, and realise huge financial savings. 

It recognises that access to cooling is not a luxury in a world where human-induced climate change has resulted in countless extreme heat related deaths and illnesses. One billion people are said to face immediate risks from lack of access to cooling, the vast majority in Asia and Africa. 

Over 1.5 million people are said to die each year because of the lack of cold storage and refrigerated transport for vaccines and of the total food produced for human consumption, an estimated 14% is lost before the food reaches the consumer, due to inadequate refrigeration and cold chains. 

Conventional cooling is responsible for up to 7% of all global emissions and, If left unchecked, those emissions are expected to double by 2030 and triple by 2100. By 2050, the energy requirement for space cooling is predicted to grow 300% to 6,200TWh. Unchecked, this cooling demand would consume much of the world’s projected renewables capacity.

Emission reducing initiatives include turning concrete jungles into urban forests, green roofs, building designs with passive and nature-based features, district cooling, more efficient air conditioners and off-grid cooling solutions like solar fridges.

While the Global Cooling Pledge has received broad support, reports suggest that India, one of the world’s largest developing economies, is unlikely to sign. 

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