Global support for Cop28-backed pledge to cut cooling emissions

'Global cooling pledge' comes on same day UN report highlights how action could ease pressure on stressed energy grids

Dozens of countries have signed up to a pledge to cut emissions from the cooling sector. Bloomberg
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At least 60 countries have signed a Cop28-backed pledge to cut emissions from the cooling sector, it was announced on Tuesday.

The "global cooling pledge" calls for countries by 2050 to cut cooling-related emissions by at least 68 per cent from 2022 levels.

It is a critical task for the world, with emissions from cooling predicted to account for more than 10 per cent of global emissions by 2050 on current projections, according to a UN report.

Released on Tuesday at Cop28, the report said swift action could ease pressure on the world’s stressed energy grids, cut emissions in the sector by 60 per cent and save trillions of dollars by 2050, the report found.

Keeping it chill: how to meet cooling demands while cutting emissions was released by the UN Environment Programme in support of the pledge.

The report said using natural measures, such as accelerating the “phase down” of climate-warming hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants, would allow low-emissions cooling to reach an additional 3.5 billion people around the world and save US$22 trillion.

Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme (Unep), said the cooling sector must grow to protect the world from rising temperatures, maintain food quality and safety, keep vaccines stable and economies productive.

“But this growth must not come at the cost of the energy transition and more intense climate impacts,” she said.

“The potential outcomes of a sustainable cooling transition sound almost too good to be true, but they are true.

"This is one of the rare cases where we should do something because the cool kids are doing it. So, I’m asking governments, the private sector and financiers to get behind the global cooling pledge with real money and real action, so we can all be cool.”

Dangers of extreme heat

About 1.2 billion people in Africa and Asia lack access to cooling services, putting lives at risk from extreme heat, reducing farmers’ incomes, contributing to food loss and waste and affecting access to vaccines.

The UN has said the world could be on track for warming of up to 3ºC, which would place huge pressure on electricity grids because of a huge demand for cooling. A recent report from Saudi Arabia highlighted the pressure this puts on the grid.

The UN report said cooling equipment represents 20 per cent of total electricity consumption today – and is expected to more than double by 2050 with a demand for older and inefficient equipment partly driving this surge. Inefficient equipment could also result in high electricity bills, particularly in Africa and South Asia where demand is surging.

Emissions from cooling are predicted to account for more than 10 per cent of global emissions in 2050.

According to the UN report, the benefits are clear. These measures would allow an additional 3.5 billion people to benefit from refrigerators, air conditioners or passive cooling by 2050; reduce electricity bills for end users by $1 trillion in 2050; reduce peak power requirements by between 1.5 and 2 terawatts – almost double the EU’s total generation capacity today; and help to avoid power generation investment in the order of $4 trillion to $5 trillion.

“As temperatures rise, it is critical that we work together to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions from the cooling sector while increasing access to sustainable cooling,” said Sultan Al Jaber, Cop28 President.

“This access is especially important for the most vulnerable communities, who have often contributed the least to climate change but are the most exposed to its impacts.”

Updated: December 05, 2023, 2:00 PM