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Report calls for more efficient, climate-friendly cooling

UK: With annual cooling equipment sales estimated to reach 460 million units by 2030 – up 37% on 2018 – a new report calls for a transition to more efficient, climate-friendly models.

The report – The Cooling Imperative: Forecasting the size and source of future cooling demand – recognises that cooling offers critical and diverse benefits, including curbing systemic food loss; preventing heatstroke and spoiled vaccines and medication; improving childrens’ learning and employee productivity; and reducing systemic inequalities – a lack of cooling disproportionately hurts women, minorities and the poor, it argues.

However, current cooling technologies and practices are seen as a substantial and growing contributor to climate change, both from leakage of HCFCs and HFC refrigerants and indirect emissions from their “inefficient” use of “fossil-fuel-based power”.

The report has been compiled by the the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) under a commission by the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Programme (K-CEP).

The market for refrigeration and air conditioning is described as “substantial” and is reportedly already larger than that for solar photovoltaic panels, wind turbines and lithium batteries. 

“It is also on a rapid growth trend, driven by climate change, urbanisation and income growth,” the report observes.

It estimates that 4.8 billion new air conditioning and refrigeration units will be sold globally between 2019 and 2030 and that annual sales will hit 460 million units, up from 336 million unit sales in 2018. This could mean that the total market value could reach almost US$170bn in 2030, up from $135bn in 2018, the report says.

While China will drive demand, the pace of growth will be faster in places like India and Indonesia.

“If the world is to scale-up access to cooling without exacerbating current levels of emissions, policymakers, companies and individuals must transition to more efficient climate-friendly models,” the report maintains. 

It calls for action to reduce the need for cooling through things like better building design and behaviour change, a shift to lower emissions, for example, by replacing HFCs with climate-friendly alternatives, and improvements in efficiency. It also calls for greater protection for those most vulnerable to a lack of cooling – for example, through more inclusive business models.

The report concludes with examples of best practice across industries, such as hotels using passive cooling design, supermarkets reselling the excess heat that they generate through refrigeration, and data centres using “free cooling” provided by colder climates.

The report can be read and downloaded here.

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