The Government of Rwanda has released a landmark plan for sustainably cooling foods and life-saving medicines, and keeping homes and other indoor spaces comfortable in hot weather.
Such moves are essential to provide equitable access to cooling while ensuring that huge expected growth in the sector does not exacerbate climate change or waste electricity. When it comes to cooling, most people think of refrigerators and air conditioners. While addressing these products is key, the Government of Rwanda is planning holistically when it comes to meeting their cooling needs, noting that continuing on a business as usual path will lead to a huge rise in electricity use and a sharp rise in greenhouse gas emissions and pollution that its people and the planet cannot afford.
Rwanda’s National Cooling Strategy outlines the findings of a recent assessment of the current and future market for cooling products. It includes recommended actions that would expand access to cooling while conserving precious resources. This East African Country, which has some of Africa’s fastest growth in expanding electricity grid connections to reach its 12 million people, is no stranger to demonstrating bold leadership when it comes to sustainable development.
Rwanda was one of the first countries in the world to ban plastic bags. Just 10 year later, its capital city hosted the meeting that agreed the namesake of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. This global treaty, which went into effect on 1 January 2019, phases-down the use of a potent greenhouse gas that is common in refrigerators and air conditioners. By doing so, it can avoid a 0.4°C rise in global temperatures this century. Rwanda not only hosted the negotiations, but was an early champion for its successful adoption.
"The Kigali Amendment was the result of hard work and a dedication to building a future that our children and grandchildren can be proud of, and one that is worthy of their aspirations. Rwanda is proud to be working with the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program and UN Environment's United for Efficiency to move quickly to meet our obligations under the amendment,” said Dr Vincent Biruta, Minister of Environment, Republic of Rwanda.
“Through the Rwanda Cooling Initiative, we have conducted a cooling market assessment, developed a national cooling strategy and minimum energy efficiency standards, and created financial tools to support businesses investing in clean cooling," he added.
“The Kigali Amendment presents one solution to climate change that is here now. Nations that ratify the amendment are committing to cutting the production and consumption of climate-warming gases, known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), by more than 80 pe rcent over the next 30 years. By reducing the use of hydrofluorocarbons, we can avoid up to 0.4°C of global warming by the end of the century. So far, 68 parties to the Montreal Protocol have ratified the amendment and we look forward to many more becoming parties and continuing the fantastic work done under the Montreal Protocol,” said Tina Birmpili, the Executive Secretary of the Ozone Secretariat.
Addressing the impacts of such gasses is only part of the challenge. The other is improving the energy efficiency of cooling products, while reducing demand for cooling in the first place. Therefore, the National Cooling Strategy includes regulations with an upper limit on how much electricity can be used by typical refrigerators and air conditioners, and it promotes alternative cooling solutions such as shading and natural ventilation.
If such action to redesign cooling equipment for energy efficiency is taken globally as part of action under the Kigali Amendment, a far larger slice of greenhouse gas emissions could be mitigated.
Altogether, these approaches enable the country to free up electricity for better uses, like electrifying more homes and businesses without having to build more power plants. Residents save money on their utility bills, businesses become more competitive, students can better focus in the classroom, high-tech industries that require precise indoor conditions can take root, farmers can better preserve their crops rather than losing nearly half of their harvest to spoilage, and electricity companies can better cope with growing demand and peak use on the hottest days of the year.
The National Cooling Strategy is the first phase of the Rwanda Cooling Initiative, a joint effort between the Government and UN Environment’s United for Efficiency (U4E) team.
“Rwanda is showcasing what we aim to replicate throughout Africa, and beyond,” said Brian Holuj, United for Efficiency’s lead for cooling initiatives. “United for Efficiency is working with dozens of countries on sustainable cooling, and there is no better case study than a peer who is taking bold action and showcasing the many benefits.”