One billion people without access to efficient cooling technology, says report
With the global heatwaves setting record high temperatures around the world in recent weeks, a new report warns that more than 1.1 billion people globally don't have access to some form of cooling.
The Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) non-profit released the Chilling Prospects report as the first quantifiable report into the growing risks associated with the global cooling challenge. It found that more than 1.1 billion people lack access to cooling, which in turn is keeping people trapped in poverty and unable to access medicines and food.
The risks associated with a lack of cooling are, according to the report, directly linked to climate change and economic development - especially for countries located in Asia and Africa where access gaps are the largest.
“In a world facing continuously rising temperatures, access to cooling is not a luxury – it’s essential for everyday life. It guarantees safe cold supply chains for fresh produce, safe storage of life-saving vaccines, and safe work and housing conditions,” SEforALL’s chief executive Rachel Kyte said.
“This Chilling Prospects report is a wake-up call. We must meet these needs in an energy efficient way, and without using ozone-damaging substances. If not, the risks to life, health and the planet are significant. But there are equally important business opportunities for those that face up to the challenge and act early.”
According to the report, 470 million people in poor rural areas are without access to safe food and medicine, while 630 million people in urban slums have no cooling to protect them against heatwaves. Countries facing the biggest risks include India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, China, Mozambique and Sudan.
However, this isn’t a problem isolated amongst poorer communities. The report notes that 2.3 billion people in the growing middle class can't afford efficient cooling devices, which could lead to a spike in global energy demand and an increase in ozone-damaging substances. Cooling is now responsible for about 10% of global warming and “growing rapidly”, the report notes.
The report recommends that policymakers should measure national gaps to cooling before collaborating with businesses and financial actors to create a wider access to cooling technologies. Companies should also accelerate innovation efforts to deliver cooling affordably and sustainably.
One of the big drawbacks of using cooling technology is the associated harmful hydrofluorocarbon (HFCs) greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately, the UK was one of the first nations to ratify the landmark Kigali Agreement to phase down HFCs commonly found in appliances such as air conditioning units and refrigerators.
At a business level, things appear a little less promising. A report released last month suggests that European retailers are behind schedule to implement natural refrigerants into operations.
Retailers are large users of HFC systems, and an average supermarket refrigeration system can leak up to a quarter of its refrigerant charge annually, the equivalent of more than 1,500 metric tonnes of carbon emissions.