On Tuesday 5th December, 63 nations attending the COP28 summit, including the United States, Canada and Kenya, committed to a ground-breaking initiative at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai—the Global Cooling Pledge. This marks the first concerted global effort to significantly reduce emissions associated with cooling, encompassing refrigeration for food and medicine, as well as air conditioning.
The pledge obligates participating countries to slash their cooling-related emissions by a minimum of 68% by 2050 compared to 2022 levels. Additionally, it includes a set of targets, such as establishing minimum energy performance standards by 2030.
Speaking at COP28, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry emphasised the goal of reducing cooling-related emissions across all sectors while enhancing access to sustainable cooling. Currently, 1.2 billion people lacking adequate cooling access face challenges. The demand for cooling is projected to triple by mid-century due to increasing temperatures, expanding populations and rising incomes.
Freetown mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr highlighted the paradox of aspirations for wealth measured by cooling, illustrated by scenarios like air conditioners in developing communities. However, the surge in air conditioner usage contributes to the climate crisis, with cooling emissions expected to reach 4.4 billion to 6.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2050.
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The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) coalition, in collaboration with the COP28 UAE presidency, developed the pledge. Jürgen Fischer, president of climate solutions at Danfoss, stressed concerns about the energy system overload caused by individual plug-ins of cheap air conditioners.
As of Tuesday morning, India, poised for substantial cooling demand growth, had not joined the pledge. Indian officials cited commitments made in 1992 under the Montreal Protocol as a reason for their hesitancy.
The UNEP report indicates that nearly three-quarters of the potential reduction in cooling emissions by 2050 can be achieved in G20 countries. The progress on the cooling pledge aims to be monitored annually until 2030, with regular assessments at the annual U.N. climate summits. Furthermore, another COP28 pledge supported by 118 countries aims to triple renewable energy and double energy efficiency rates by 2030.