The Race Is On, but Cooling Industry Needs to Accelerate Net Zero Efforts

Five major cooling suppliers are racing to net zero but they represent fewer than ten per cent of the 54 suppliers assessed in a new report, meaning the industry has a lot of work to do to catch up on climate action and reduce pollution from the sector, currently estimated at 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

With the world still falling short of meeting the Paris Agreement goals of holding global temperature rise this century to under 2 degrees C, and pursue 1.5 degrees C, action to reduce the climate impact of cooling will be essential.

According to the International Energy Agency, emissions from cooling are expected to double by 2030 and triple by 2100, driven by heat waves, population growth, urbanization, and a growing middle class. By 2050, space cooling alone will consume as much electricity as China and India today.

The UN has identified cooling as a key sector for action in its Race to Zero Breakthroughs, which are intended to galvanise action ahead of the next global climate meeting, COP26, which is due to take place later this year.

However, Cooling Suppliers: Who’s Winning the Race to Net Zero (available at https://bit.ly/3sBhnt0), finds that 49 out of 54 companies assessed have yet to commit to ambitious net-zero targets, despite some efforts to reduce their emissions.

The report – released by the Race to Zero campaign, the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program (K-CEP), Carbon Trust and other partners in the UN Environment Programme-hosted Cool Coalition – assesses cooling firms against three key impact areas defined in the Cooling Climate Action Pathway.

These are:

  • Super-efficient equipment and appliances: Making super-efficient cooling equipment and smart appliances powered by zero-carbon energy the norm;
  • Ultra-low global warming potential refrigerants; and
  • Passive cooling: Widespread adoption of measures that avoid or reduce the need for mechanical cooling, including reductions in cooling loads, human-centric design and urban planning.

The report calls on cooling firms to show increased ambition to line up with net-zero commitments from over 100 governments and many other private sector actors.

One company that recently announced new commitments is Johnson Controls, a global leader for smart, healthy and sustainable buildings and producer of cooling equipment. The company has committed to moving its operations to net-zero emissions by 2040. Johnson Controls, which employs 100,000 people in more than 150 countries, is also a member of the Cool Coalition – a group of over 100 companies, governments, cities and organizations working to lower the climate impact of the cooling industry.

“Johnson Controls is proud of its recent commitment to achieve the most ambitious science-based targets by 2030 and net zero carbon emissions before 2040,” said Clay Nesler, vice president global energy and sustainability at Johnson Controls. “Smart, healthy and sustainable cooling solutions are key to accelerating the race to zero for our company as well as our customers.”

New tools to accelerate cooling action

To help other companies and countries join the race to net zero, Cool Coalition partners are also releasing a suite of products to guide their actions – with the support of K-CEP and the technical expertise of the Carbon Trust.

The report comes alongside the Pathway to Net Zero Cooling Action Plan for the COP26 Champions Team which highlights the areas where progress is needed. The action table has been endorsed by a range of leading organisations and institutions including CLASP, E3G, the Environmental Investigation Agency, IGSD, RMI, UN Environment Programme, University of Birmingham and the University of Oxford.

‘Cool Calculator’ scenario planning tool is also being launched to help companies and governments run simple calculations on key aspects of cooling decarbonization to enable them to identify the set of solutions that works best for them.

Additionally, the UK’s Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has launched a net-zero cooling product guide that will allow companies, governments and consumers to cut their cooling footprint by choosing products that are energy-efficient and run on natural refrigerants with ultra-low Global Warming Potential.

“As consumers and producers of cooling look to reduce their carbon footprint, urgent action on both refrigerants and energy efficiency is needed,” said Fionnuala Walravens, Senior Campaigner at EIA. “EIA’s Pathway to net-zero cooling product list offers a range of climate-friendly solutions available now.”

The EIA list also calls on governments to do more to support the uptake of sustainable cooling, by outlining cooling plans in their commitments under the Paris Agreement and looking at legislation to speed up the phasing out of hydrofluorocarbons – climate-warming refrigerants that are now being phased out under an international agreement known as the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.

“The development and expansion of net-zero cooling is a critical part of our Race to Zero emissions,” said Nigel Topping, UK High Level Champion for COP26. “In addition to technological breakthroughs and ambitious legislation, we also need sustainable consumer purchasing to help deliver wholesale systems change, and as such I welcome the EIA cooling products guide as an important contribution to accelerating the race.”

Additional quotes:

“Efforts to race to net zero cooling present an incredible opportunity to meet ambitious climate, environment and development goals and unlock the clean energy transition” said David Aitken, Director, Innovation at the Carbon Trust. “These tools show how we can get there.”

“From healthcare and agriculture, to transportation and buildings, the environmental performance of cooling impacts many sectors’ pathways to zero carbon emissions,” said Dan Hamza-Goodacre, K-CEP’s Non-Executive Director. “We won’t get to net zero without concerted and ambitious action on cooling.”

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