Over 1.1bn people globally face immediate risks from lack of access to cooling, a process which underpins escaping poverty, staying healthy, keeping vaccines stable, food nutritious and economies productive, according to a new report issued Monday. And of the nine countries with the biggest populations facing significant cooling risks, five are from Asia.
The countries, which also include those of Africa and Latin America, are India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, China, Mozambique and Sudan, said the Chilling Prospects: Providing Sustainable Cooling for All report from Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL). It is one of the first reports ever to quantify the growing risks and assess the opportunities of the global cooling challenge.
Importance of access to cooling
Access to cooling is now a fundamental issue of equity, and as temperatures hit record levels, this could also mean the difference between life or death for some, said the report. These risks are 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.
Yet 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 Ms Rachel Kyte, CEO and special representative to the United Nations Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All.
“This Chilling Prospects report is a wake-up call. 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,” she said.
Closing these cooling access gaps is essential for economic growth and development for many countries, and especially vulnerable populations. Key findings based on an analysis of 52 vulnerable countries in hot climates show that for the 1.1bn vulnerable include 470m people in poor rural areas without access to safe food and medicines and 630m people in hotter, poor urban slums with little or no cooling to protect them against extreme heatwaves.
2.3bn people represent a different kind of cooling risk – a growing middle class, where limited purchasing options mean they may only be able to afford to buy less expensive and less efficient cooling devices, which could spike global energy demand with profound climate impacts.
Action addressing cooling required to combat climate change
With cooling estimated to be responsible for about 10% of global warming and growing rapidly, future choices about refrigerants, the efficiency of cooling technologies, and how cooling is powered will have a significant impact on achieving the Paris Climate Agreement.
Previous research indicates that by 2050, work hour losses by country due to excessive heat and lack of access to cooling are expected to be more than 2% and a high as 12%. With the destructive effects of climate change now being widely felt, the report urges government policy-makers, business leaders, investors and civil society to increase access to sustainable cooling solutions for all.
Specific report recommendations include:
• Government policymakers should immediately measure gaps in access to cooling in their own countries, as an evidence base for more proactive and integrated policy-making.
• Businesses, governments and finance actors should collaborate to assess and act on the enormous commercial and economic opportunities, including productivity, employment and growth gains from providing sustainable cooling solutions for all.
• Manufacturers, industry associations and lenders should actively engage and cooperate to develop products and financial solutions that meet the needs of those without access to cooling.
• All stakeholders should accelerate their innovation efforts and embrace a paradigm shift - thinking more holistically about the way we provide cooling, focusing firstly on reducing heat loads and then about how to deliver cooling affordably and sustainably.
The report, which can be found here, is being launched during this week’s United Nations High-Level Political Forum, which is reviewing progress towards several of the Sustainable Development Goals. SEforALL is a global initiative led by the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon to achieve universal energy access, improve energy efficiency, and increase the use of renewable energy.