Countries Pledge at COP28 to Reduce Emissions from Cooling Sector

Apartment complex with window AC units

(Credit: Unsplash)

by | Dec 12, 2023

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Dozens of countries signed a pledge at COP28 to take key measures towards reducing power consumption from cooling equipment, expected to cut the sector’s emissions by 60% to 96% while helping end-users save on costs.

More than 60 countries signed the pledge, which includes commitments to implementing passive cooling, higher energy efficiency standards, and a faster phase-down of refrigerants, known for their climate warming impact. Following these recommendations, provided by the UN Environmental Programme’s (UNEP) Global Cooling Watch report, could reduce sector-wide emissions by around 3.8 billion tons by 2050 compared to current projections.

Steps to Decarbonize Cooling, Major Cost Savings Involved

Passive cooling includes measures such as insulation, natural shading, and reflective surfaces, which may be enforced through building energy codes. These measures alone would reportedly save on capital cost savings of new cooling equipment up to $3 trillion while reducing 1.3 billion tons of carbon emissions.

Higher energy efficiency standards would include measures such as updated Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS), financing to encourage higher efficiency products, and regulations that would avoid the dumping of low-efficiency cooling equipment to developing countries.

Finally, through the already-established Kigali amendment, the world has committed to phase-down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), common coolants known to deplete the ozone layer and therefore worsen effects of global warming. The new pledge includes more rapid changes made towards this goal, including the installation of new equipment and stronger national enforcement.

If all of the outlined measures are to be implemented, the UN said end-users may save $1 trillion each year and the power sector may save up to $5 trillion. With a projected total life-cycle cost savings of $22 trillion, the UN said that a sustainable cooling transition is affordable, provided financing is made available to cover upfront costs.

This includes concessional finance for developing countries and the incorporation of sustainable cooling criteria into banks’ lending practices.

The UN also said that G20 countries represent 73% of 2050 emissions reduction potential and therefore will need to make the most significant efforts outlined in the pledge.

Decarbonizing Grid Decides Extent of Emissions Reductions

The difference between 60% emissions savings and 96% relies on the pace at which countries decarbonize their respective grids. Many countries, including the United States, are working to decarbonize their grids through incorporation of renewable energy sources. Another major commitment made at COP28 includes worldwide action to triple renewable energy generation towards this goal.

The cooling sector will need to grow in order to protect communities from dangerously hot weather associated with global warming, but such growth has the potential to further contribute to climate change if not done in a way that also reduces emissions impact.

“The cooling sector must grow to protect everyone from rising temperatures, maintain food quality and safety, keep vaccines stable and economies productive,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP. “But this growth must not come at the cost of the energy transition and more intense climate impacts. Countries and the cooling sector must act now to ensure low-carbon cooling growth. Fortunately, the solutions are available today. Getting energy-efficient, sustainable cooling right offers an opportunity to cut global warming, improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people, and realize huge financial savings.”

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