UNEP and IEA report: Cooling Emissions and Policy Synthesis

Date: 10 August 2020
UNEP and IEA report: Cooling Emissions and Policy Synthesis

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) have developed a 50-page report titled ‘Cooling Emissions and Policy Synthesis Report: Benefits of cooling efficiency and the Kigali Amendment’. The report highlights the growth of cooling appliances in numbers, addresses the COVID-19 estimated impacts and outlines six important opportunities identified under the K-CEP programme.

Introduction to the report

According to the report, there are an estimated 3,6bn cooling appliances in use globally today, and that number is growing by up to 10 devices every second. This growth is set to increase the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions dramatically, further warming the planet. Air conditioners are a double burden, as the report explains. In most cases, they use hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), extremely potent greenhouse gases, and require significant energy to run. Without policy intervention, direct and indirect emissions from air conditioning and refrigeration are projected to rise 90% above 2017 levels by the year 2050. This report lays out ways to resolve this dilemma by delivering efficient and climate friendly cooling for all – in particular by rapidly phasing down hydrofluorocarbons in the cooling sector and delivering cooling more efficiently through more efficient equipment and buildings.

The report indicates that reductions between 210-460bn metric tons of CO2 emissions could be achieved in the next 40 years through actions to improve the energy efficiency of cooling systems and a transition to climate-friendly refrigerants.

Impact of the COVID-19 outbreak

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created an extraordinary global health and economic crisis. Beyond the immediate impact on health, the current crisis has major implications on global economies, energy use and CO2 emissions. The economy could decline by 6% in 2020, whilst energy demand, which declined by 3,8% in the first quarter of 2020, could fall by 6% by the end of 2020. Global energy-related CO emissions could fall by 8% in 2020. This global economic downturn will also have an impact on investment in energy systems, including efficient climate-friendly cooling. For example, it is expected that investment in building efficiency will fall by over 10% in 2020.

Summary of six opportunities identified under the K-CEP programme

  1. Conditional bailouts for hard-hit sectors that support sustainable cooling. Funds to bail out hard-hit sectors should by tied to the adoption of climate friendly cooling solutions.
  2. Rebates and incentives to promote cooling efficiency in the built environment, increasing demand for efficient appliances and climate-friendly cooling technologies will create jobs and also induce spending from lower energy bills.
  3. Policy design to address resilient and responsive cold chain logistics for healthcare and food security. A growth in cooling is needed for food and medical supplies, will improve health outcomes, reduce food and vaccine loss, and also build capacity to respond to future shocks.
  4. Supporting measures to encourage implementation of cooling retrofits and passive technologies. Retrofitting of buildings with better cooling features are low-capital investments which are labour intensive.
  5. Expanding financing models to meet cooling needs. Funding can be used to promote and also support initial capital investment now to realise future savings.
  6. Public and private financing investment in R&D for cooling. Grants and loans will sustain future innovation and deliver future improvements, offering innovators a competitive advantage. The timing of impact of the different recovery measures will vary. For example, cooling system maintenance and painting roofs with reflective paint will increase employment in a relatively short period (in the order of months), whilst investing in more efficient equipment and buildings will take longer.
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