The cooling industry is one of the sectors with a vital behind-the-scenes role in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It provides everything from the right temperature conditions to safely transport and store medicines, and keep patients and care givers safe and comfortable in both traditional healthcare facilities as well as emergency hospitals assembled in halls, car-parks, and other municipal spaces.
Mabe, ENGIE, Electrolux, Danfoss, Empower – all partners in the UN Environment Programme’s Cool Coalition, a global partnership formed last year to reduce the climate impact of the cooling industry – are among the companies finding themselves not just on the frontline of this health crisis but also leading examples of how industry can support a more climate resilient recovery and build back better.
“The recovery from the COVID-19 crisis must not be a step backward. It is an opportunity to build more sustainable and inclusive economies and societies,” said UNEP Chief, Energy and Climate Branch Mark Radka. “These actions by the cooling industry to reinforce resilience and strengthen recovery are very welcome, and I hope we see many more such acts of solidarity as the world emerges from the worst of the crisis.”
Mabe is protecting health workers by producing Aeroboxes – barriers that limit contact between doctors and patients during intubations – from components that would typically go into its refrigerators. The company has delivered more than 30,000 units to healthcare facilities throughout Latin America.
ENGIE’s subsidiaries are helping governments expand intensive care units and build temporary hospitals in hotels, parking lots, stadia, exhibition halls and gymnasiums. In 93 Italian hospitals, for example, ENGIE is providing free electricity, gas and technical assistance for the construction and extension of medical units. In the US, ENGIE is working at a General Motors plant in Indiana on facility upgrades needed to start manufacturing up to 200,000 life-saving ventilators.
Tabreed, a UAE-based utility company ensured cooling to Cleveland clinic in Abu Dhabi amongst a number of other medical entities. Danfoss and the Danfoss Foundation have worked closely with the health and medical sector to ensure hospitals can maintain their heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and establish field hospitals. The Dubai-based district cooling firm Empower have committed to price discounts as part of a stimulus package for Dubai’s population, who have been in lockdown in a city where the temperatures regularly approach 40oC.
Electrolux Food Foundation has donated tens of thousands of meals to frontline healthcare workers and those particularly vulnerable to the virus and provided 50,000 masks and other equipment to workers in the health sector. These efforts are underway in Africa, Europe, and the Americas.
Keeping climate action going
While the industry is mobilizing to address COVID-19, these companies are also leading examples of the opportunities to be seized in a greener economic recovery.
Engie’s purpose is to act to accelerate the transition towards a carbon neutral economy through reduced energy consumption and more environmentally-friendly solutions and to reconcile economic performance with a positive impact on people and the planet,” said Claire Waysand, Interim CEO of Engie. “Green activities like sustainable cooling and clean energy are a win win for economic recovery and to help tackle climate change,” she added.
In a boost for climate action, the companies are also making concrete commitments to reducing the use of potent greenhouse gases in their cooling products and services. These gases, known as HFCs, are to be almost eradicated under an international deal known as the Kigali Agreement to the Montreal Protocol.
“Tackling climate change is one of the most urgent challenges in our society,” said Jonas Samuelson, CEO Electrolux. “As part of its commitment to the Cool Coalition, Electrolux has prepared a global phase-out plan for HFCs. We are encouraging other companies in our industry to join us.”
While the published plans involve rapid reductions in HFCs in the next few years, the companies are also promoting greater energy-efficiency – an essential move to reduce the power use, and therefore emissions, of a growing number of refrigerators and air conditioners.
According to recent UN research, improving the energy efficiency of cooling products while reducing the use of HFCs, could avoid greenhouse gas emissions of 210-460 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over the next four decades, roughly equal to 4-8 years of global emissions at 2018 levels.
The commitments follow a call from UN Secretary-General António Guterres for “concrete and enhanced actions” from the cooling industry to reduce their climate impact. This leadership from global, market-leading companies, putting themselves front and center not just in response to this current crisis but in showing how industry can take meaningful climate action in our economic recovery will help realize the vision of building back better.
Nature is in crisis, threatened by biodiversity and habitat loss, global heating and toxic pollution. Failure to act is failing humanity. Addressing the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and protecting ourselves against future global threats requires sound management of hazardous medical and chemical waste; strong and global stewardship of nature and biodiversity; and a clear commitment to “building back better”, creating green jobs and facilitating the transition to carbon neutral economies. Humanity depends on action now for a resilient and sustainable future.
For more information, please contact Niklas.Hagelberg@un.org
Cover photo: Henri Mondor hospital, Paris, France. Photo by Engie.