24 Sep 2019 Speech Climate change

We Will: Efficient, Climate-Friendly Cooling for All

Photo by Unsplash

Jeppe Kofod, Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs

Fadi Jreissati, Minister of Environment, Lebanon

Rafique Ahammed, Director-General, Ministry of Environment, Bangladesh

Ricardo Lara, Commissioner, Government of California

Distinguished guests

Please let me begin by thanking you all for coming here in the wake of the Climate Action Summit.

Thank you also to the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Programme and EP100 for bringing us together to highlight a crucial and missing part of the climate and sustainable development puzzle.

I am, of course, talking about efficient, climate-friendly cooling.

Today, I would like to present five points on what Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, so astutely referred to as a “blind spot” in climate action.

My first point is that we need cooling for life and livelihoods.

Many of you no doubt sweltered through the summer heatwaves.

If you had air conditioning, you probably cranked it up to get through the working day or to get a good night’s sleep.

But cooling is about much more than thermal comfort.

It is about protecting vulnerable populations, keeping vaccines viable, food fresh from farm to fork, and workforces productive.

Let me give you some quick facts to illustrate my point.

  • One billion people face risks from a lack of cooling, mainly in Africa and Asia.
  • Almost one-third of the world’s population face dangerous temperatures for more than 20 days a year.
  • Over 1.5 million people die each year because of the lack of cold storage and refrigerated transport for vaccines.
  • Up to 50 percent of food is lost post-harvest in developing countries due to inadequate refrigeration and cold chains.

As climate change raises global temperatures, the challenges will grow, compounded by urbanization and urban warming.

To deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to expand access to cooling, even beyond the growth that is already happening thanks to rising populations and middle classes.

My second point is that cooling expansion needs careful management to minimize climate impacts.

We simply cannot expand cooling on a business-as-usual basis.

Conventional cooling already causes up to 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, twice the carbon emissions from aviation and maritime transport combined.

3.6 billion cooling appliances are already in use. This number is predicted to double by 2030 and almost quadruple by 2050.

Air conditioners are a double burden when it comes climate change. They use HFCs, which are extremely potent greenhouse gases, and a significant source of energy. 

Direct and indirect emissions from air conditioning and refrigeration are projected to rise 90 percent from 2017 levels by the year 2050.

To solve this dilemma, we need a rapid transition to climate-friendly and energy-efficient cooling.

My third point is that we will need a mix of different approaches to achieve this transition.

Contrary to some expectations, a shift to clean energy can’t do it all.

To give some context, 2018 was a record-breaking year for solar energy, but demand for new Air conditioning units offset all of the new capacity.

This means we also need to think about energy efficiency, smart buildings, urban form and nature-based solutions.

Take cities, where the urban heat island effect raises temperatures.

By transforming concrete jungles into urban forests, we can keep our cities cooler sustainably, and make them more livable.

In Medellín, Colombia’s second-largest city, a project to green the city brought temperatures down by almost 2°C.

District cooling is another option. In Paris, a district cooling network replaces air conditioning and chillers by pumping cold water around the city.

Crucially, there is a unique opportunity in the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which is phasing down HFCs.

This phase down alone could avoid up to 0.4 °C of global warming by the end of this century.

By also promoting an approach that reduces demand, shifts to renewables, and improves energy efficiency, we can double the climate benefits of the Amendment.

My fourth point is that, given the need for multiple approaches, collective and coordinated action is essential. And it is growing.

Making the transition happen is the raison d’etre of the Cool Coalition, a new joint effort of over 80 governments, cities, businesses, development organizations, and civil society groups.

In the few short months that the Coalition has existed, we have seen a range of actors joining forces including through pledges made at the Climate Action Summit.

  • 26 countries (including Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic and Lebanon) are undertaking comprehensive national cooling plans. They are also looking to include cooling in their nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement.
  • Five countries committed to integrate cooling in their Nationally Determined Contributions, including Dominican Republic, North Macedonia, Senegal, Spain and Rwanda.
  • Countries at the G7 meeting in Biarritz pledged to improve energy efficiency while phasing down HFCs and supporting the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Efficient Cooling Initiative and others.
  • Through C40 and champions like the Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, dozens of cities have committed to better building design, green roofs and district cooling.
  • 23 multinationals have committed to transforming their products and services in line with sustainable cooling.
  • The World Bank Group and the Green Climate Fund are integrating clean and efficient cooling across their investment and lending portfolios.
  • Financial commitments have been unlocked through the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Programme which has mobilized 18 philanthropists. An additional US$ 23 million was pledged at the Climate Action Summit.
  • Civil society partners like the WWF have committed to public awareness campaigns and universities like Yale have committed to enhance research on cooling.

These actions are a much-needed shot in the arm for climate action and sustainable development.

Given all of the above, my fifth and final point is self-evident: we need to seize the three-in-one cooling opportunity.

Getting cooling right offers a us a chance to cut global warming, improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people, and realize huge financial savings.

  • The climate benefits of the HFC phase-down could potentially double if countries only allow the most efficient equipment to be sold.
  • With a 30 percent improvement in the energy efficiency of room air conditioners alone, we could avoid building up to 2,500 power plants, and save US$ 3 trillion by 2050.
  • Halving food loss with sustainable refrigeration and cold chains could help to feed one billion undernourished people.

The Cool Coalition is a powerful new collective force for bringing these, and many other, benefits to fruition.

It is, if you will excuse the obvious pun, quickly becoming cool.

Join us, and help keep the planet cool too.

Inger Andersen

Executive Director,

UN Environment Programme