Global risks of lack of access to cooling

Stefan Jungcurt writes on the International Institute for Sustainable Development’s SDG Knowledge Hub about a new report that raises concerns about the large number of people with insufficient access to adequate refrigeration and cooling.


SEforALL Report Sounds Alarm on Risks Related to Lack of Access to Cooling

Around the world, 1.1 billion people have insufficient access to adequate refrigeration and cooling and are therefore exposed to risks for health and food security. Another 2.3 billion people can only access cheap, inefficient cooling technologies leading to additional risks for the climate. These are the main findings of a report titled, ‘Chilling Prospects: Providing Sustainable Cooling for All,’ released by Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) on the sidelines of the UN High-level Political Forum in New York.

Refrigeration and cooling are essential for achieving multiple SDG, including food production and food security (SDG 2); refrigeration of vaccines and medicines as well as the protection against heatwaves affecting health (SDG 3), or providing safe working conditions protected from heat (SDG 8). Access to cooling is therefore a critical aspect that links access to energy (SDG 7) to several other goals.

The publication aims to raise awareness of these risks and that these risks will be increased by the impacts of climate change. The study shows that globally 1.1 billion people face risks related to access to cooling, including 470 million people in rural areas suffering form lack of access to medicine and safe food, and 630 million people in urban areas exposed to health risks from extreme heatwaves. Most of the affected populations live in nine countries, including India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, China, Mozambique and Sudan.

The report further underlines risks related to access to cooling of poor quality. Approximately 2.3 billion people can only afford less expensive cooling devices that are inefficient and would further increase energy demand for cooling and related climate impacts. Energy use for cooling is already estimated to be responsible for 10% of global warming. The choice of more efficient technologies is thus important to limit additional climate impacts from providing access to cooling for all, the analysis shows.

The publication recommends, among other actions, that:

  • Government policy makers immediately measure gaps in access to cooling to inform decision making;
  • Business, government and finance actors collaborate to realize commercial and economic opportunities, including productivity, employment and growth gains, related to sustainable cooling solutions for all;
  • Manufacturers, industry associations and lenders cooperate to develop products and financing solutions meeting the needs of those lacking access to cooling; and
  • All stakeholders accelerate innovation while adopting a holistic approach that prioritizes reducing heat loads and delivering cooling in an affordable and sustainable manner.

In the run up to the release on 16 July, SEforALL published a series of blog posts that discuss the role of cooling in different areas, including: cooling the in context of a warming climate; cooling in growing cities; cooling for food production and transport; and sustainable cooling under the Montreal Protocol and the Kigali Amendment.

The report was produced in partnership and supported by the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program (K-CEP), a philanthropic initiative focused on improving people’s lives and realizing the full climate benefits of implementing the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. Under the Kigali Amendment, Parties agreed to phase down the production of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) with high global warming potential, which are often used as alternatives to ozone-depleting substances.

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