With a global focus on building back better, leading experts from around the world gathered for a virtual roundtable on sustainable cooling. Government officials, industry leaders and finance experts shared perspectives on sustainable cooling and highlighted actions needed to achieve the target of limiting global warming to 1.5ºC by the turn of the century. The discussion was especially timely given the World Meteorological Organization report that global temperatures could exceed the 1.5ºC threshold in the next five years.
Cooling already consumes over 10% of the world’s energy and this share is growing with rising temperatures. Bold and urgent action to meet global cooling needs in an efficient and sustainable manner is essential to give the planet a chance to fight climate crisis. Coordinated international action on energy-efficient, climate-friendly cooling could avoid as much as 460 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions—roughly equal to eight years of global emissions at 2018 levels—over the next four decades.
With skyrocketing cooling demand in a warming world, countries, businesses and stakeholders need to work together to accelerate cooling solutions. Climate-friendly air conditioners, green buildings, and cool roofs are some the easiest solutions to put the planet on a rapid path to limit warming to the 1.5ºC threshold.
Hosted by the United Nations Environment Program Cool Coalition and the Permanent Mission of Denmark the the United Nations, the webinar Cool Down to Step Up Climate Action and Green Recovery discussed the importance of sustainable cooling in fighting climate change, as part of World Ozone Day coming up next week.
As several of the panelists highlighted, major economies, such as India, with the largest unmet cooling demand in the world, provide one of the best opportunities to accelerate transition to climate friendly cooling while enhancing comfort, improving health, protecting the environment, and creating jobs.
Cities, states and the national government in India are taking steps to protect communities and save energy costs on cooling. Ahmedabad, one of the country’s largest cities, avoided an estimated 1,190 deaths each year after implementing the country’s first heat action plan. The Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan was originally released in 2013 and developed by NRDC, the Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar and key partners. Heat action plans have since expanded to over 23 states and over 100 cities and districts.
“The Heat Action Plan is one of the best policy examples of how cities in developing countries can learn from best practices around the world to design local and cost-effective solutions” said Ahmedabad Mayor Bijal Patel.
Cool roofs are an emerging component of heat action plans. Cool roofs reflect sunlight and absorb less heat. They are cost effective solutions that work to protect vulnerable groups and slum communities. Ahmedabad initiated a successful cool roof pilot in 2017 with plans to expand to a city-wide policy for slum households and city-owned buildings, such as offices and schools. Building on its initial pilot program two year ago, Hyderabad is also developing a statewide policy as part of its building efficiency and heat resilience program.
NRDC is a part of the Cool Coalition and is actively engaged with cities, states and the national government in India on climate-friendly cooling. Recently, our work on cooling and heat resilience with our partners was honored with the 2020 Ashden Awards.
Kate Hampton, Chief Executive Officer, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation summed up the discussion well, “We have lost a year in climate diplomacy which we couldn’t afford, the world is literary on fire. Acting in an integrated way on climate friendly cooling is one of the best ways to get back on track to curbing climate change.”