Urban cooling and cold chain are two critically under-supported areas under the India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP). Two projects, delivered under the framework of the Cool Coalition, will support the Government of India to lead a transition to sustainable, accessible and climate-friendly cooling.
Under the framework of the Cool Coalition, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and RMI, in partnership with the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark under the India-Denmark Green Strategic Partnership, are developing a programme to sustainably cool India’s cities. Drawing on best practices from around the world, the programme will deliver on-the-ground support to help cities “Beat the Heat.”
THE CHALLENGE: Climate change has already hit India hard, causing huge economic and social losses in recent years. India’s cities are particularly at risk due to climate change and extreme heat, as rising temperatures are exacerbated by urban heat island effects and inequitable access to cooling. Left unchecked, this heat could expose up to 200 million people in India to lethal heatwaves in the 2030s, reduce India’s GDP by 2%, cause the loss of 34 million jobs, and make it that much harder for millions of people to escape poverty.
Only 9% of Indian households have air conditioning today, but this demand is projected to increase 20-fold by 2050. Under business-as-usual, this translates into a huge emissions and energy problem, as room air conditioners alone will account for one-quarter of India’s emissions and 45% of nationwide peak electricity demand in 2050. This in turn risks deadly power outages as both temperatures and electricity demand surge during India’s more frequent and intense heat waves.
THE SOLUTION: India’s cities cannot just air condition a way out of this extreme heat crisis. Best practices from India and around the world show that by taking a whole-systems approach to urban cooling, Indian cities can solve their cooling challenge and increase their heat resilience.
UNEP and RMI in partnership with India’s National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark under the India-Denmark Green Strategic Partnership, have established an urban cooling programme to support Indian cities to take comprehensive action on extreme heat and rising cooling demand. The programme will provide technical assistance to cities, both on-the-ground and through NIUA, to incorporate solutions at multiple scales—from the city-wide scale down to the neighbourhood, building, and household scale.
Agricultural cold chain is critically under-developed in India. According to the India Cooling Action Plan, this is especially the case for agricultural packhouses, refrigerated transport and logistics.
This has numerous socioeconomic and environmental impacts, including lower farmer incomes and high levels of food loss in a country with the highest number of people living in hunger, and one-third of all malnourished children.
The lack of availability of cold-chain is estimated to lead to an average of 15-20% loss of food in India. This amounts to about 50% of all post-harvest food loss in the country.
Moreover, today farmers receive less than half the wholesale price for their produce and for perishable goods.
Increasing access to cold chain infrastructure can help reduce food loss, expand market connectivity, protect the quality and safety of food, increase farmers revenues and improve the resilience of farmers and the rural communities in which they are located.
In consultation with the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) of India, UNEP, Auroville and Tabreed India are developing and implementing the Prāṇa project, a demonstration project for integrated, market linked and localized cold chain services for the agricultural and vaccine supply chain in Villupuram District, Tamil Nadu, India.
Prāṇa is an ancient Indian concept referring to the creative energy that sustains all life forms on earth. This is the inspiration behind the project, which will connect water, energy, land use and livelihood improvement (WELL) by developing a sustainable rural cold chain.
The project will have innovative features to help increase the circularity and interconnectedness principles that are the heart of the project’s conception. The project is a first step of UNEP’s activities on sustainable cold chain in India and will contribute to the Cool Coalition’s objectives.
The project will be implemented in Villupuram, a district in the state of Tamil Nadu.
Villupuram is one of the most economically deprived districts in the state of Tamil Nadu with a population of about 3.4 million and 1,431 villages. Here, agriculture is one of the main sources of livelihood. Villupuram is strategically located with excellent transport interconnectivity to major urban centres and transport hubs (air and rail) in Chennai, Bangalore, Madurai, Pondicherry. However, lack of cold chain infrastructure hinders end-to-end integration of the agricultural supply chain.
Increasing the availability of cold chain facilities at Villupuram district can allow farmers to shift to more remunerative crop patterns, reach other segments of the food system more effectively, and increase farmers’ incomes.
The demonstration project will consist of a net-zero carbon, net-zero water use, zero waste and a net energy surplus cold chain packhouse based on circular economy principles that can contribute to a more resilient local power grid.
The packhouse will be assessed alongside potential new rural livelihood initiatives such as agrivoltaics, mushroom cultivation and aquaponics and promote important agricultural innovations in a drought-threatened area, such as precision irrigation.
The project will be developed to demonstrate commercial viability and showcase a sustainable and circular model to deliver high-quality cold chain services that boost farmer incomes and strengthen livelihoods of the rural community.
The business model will be designed to be replicable and scalable under a participatory model with farmers and Farmers Producer Organizations (FPOs).