Access to efficient, clean cooling underpins the ability of hundreds of millions of people to realize the Sustainable Development Goals. In a warming world, access to cooling is not a luxury – vulnerable populations are depending on it for nutritious food, safe medicines, productivity and protection from extreme heat.
470 million people in poor rural communities in hot climates lack access to electricity and therefore to conventional space cooling and refrigeration technologies – including intact cold chains for food, agricultural produce and medicines. This can limit good health outcomes, agricultural productivity and opportunities for economic self-sufficiency.
630 million people on the lowest incomes in the hottest cities, often in poor quality housing, may only have intermittent access to cooling services or struggle to afford them. This can compromise food safety and exacerbate vulnerability to heat stress from increasingly frequent and intense heatwaves brought about by human-induced climate change.
Sustainable cold chains are essential to increasing farmers’ incomes (SDG1) through expanding access to markets and reducing post-harvest loss and waste (which can be up to 50% ). Sustainable cold-chains are critical to ending hunger and malnutrition (SDG2), through increasing the volume of affordable, nutritious produce that can reach populations. An un-broken cold-chain that delivers universal access to vaccines and medicines would promote well-being (SDG3).
Managing thermal comfort and minimising populations’ exposure to heat stress will be necessary if cities are to be safe, resilient and sustainable (SDG 11). If strategies are not in place to protect populations from heat stress, it will impede progress towards income and productivity targets (SDG 8). Thermal regulation is also required for the provision of many health services (SDG 3).
Access to affordable, reliable sustainable and modern energy (SDG7) for all could be put at risk by the added demand cooling places on energy infrastructure. If steps are not taken to reduce the emissions from cooling services (without preventing access to cooling for those that need it), climate targets will be put at risk (SDG13).
By integrating efficiency into the implementation of the Kigali Amendment, Governments have an opportunity to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals. This requires an assessment of populations at risk, and solutions – through finance, technology, and holistic thinking – that meet cooling needs.