The world’s largest climate congregation has put cooling into the spotlight for the first time. The introduction of the Global Cooling Pledge during COP28 is considered one of the key outcomes of the 2023 climate conference.
It is a very positive step for COP to acknowledge the critical role the Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVACR) sector plays in regard to greenhouse gas emissions, but also in providing essential cooling for food safety and people’s health. With energy consumption related to cooling expected to triple until 2050, the International Energy Agency along with other institutions and organisations, from environmental groups to industry associations, call for attention of governments and political leaders.
Following the implementation of the Montreal Protocol in 1987, the international community, spearheaded by UNEP and supported by the dedicated Multilateral Fund has been working intensively on the phase out of ozone depleting substances. This focus has been adapted over time by not only looking at the ozone depleting potential, but generally on global warming potential, and ultimately, during the Kigali convention, has extended to energy efficiency and decarbonisation.
While over the years, most nations have established infrastructures and departments dealing with the ozone topic, the work on energy efficiency has remained either neglected, or dealt with by other government departments, like standardisation bodies and regulatory authorities. This background explains why over all the years, the main focus of concern for UNEP and its various sub organisations and initiatives remained on the chiller and air conditioning side.
Eurovent, through its regional chapter Eurovent Middle East, has been introducing new perspectives in several discussions and events organised in partnership with UNEP. While fully supportive of refrigerant transition and more energy efficient cooling appliances, it has brought to the attention the important, yet greatly neglected issue of ventilation. After all, an excellent, energy efficient chiller will not deliver its performance if the energy is lost during the transport of the cooled air into the rooms. Or rather, the chiller will perform, but it won’t make any difference.
A holistic and systemic approach is necessary if any energy efficiency targets stipulated by pledge, policy, or regulation shall be achieved. And here, MEPS alone cannot and will not help. Interventions, regulative as well as educational, are required to facilitate a higher grade of system integration and better installation, operation, and maintenance of HVACR systems. With the HVACR Leadership Academy, Eurovent Middle East has introduced an answer to decades of discussing and arguing on COP level.
The Cooling Pledge
For anyone interested, this link provides a good summary of the background of the Global Cooling Pledge as well as its full text in Annex 1. The pledge shall increase ambitious efforts and international cooperation through joint targets on reducing GHG emissions related to cooling, improving energy efficiency, taking a climate-friendly approach, and expanding access to sustainable air conditioning for vulnerable groups in society.
It shall commit nations to:
- Work together with the aim of reducing cooling-related emissions by at least 68% relative to 2022 levels by 2050
- Support increased market penetration of highly efficient air conditioning equipment and innovative technologies and to collectively increase the global average efficiency rating of new air conditioning equipment sold by 50% by at the latest 2030 from global 2022 installed baseline
- Ratify the Kigali Amendment by 2024, if not already ratified
- Publish a national cooling action plan, considering cooling when publishing a national action plan, or publishing a regulation or equivalent by 2026 and to reflect relevant efforts in designing nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement and HFC phase-down plans
The pledge has been initially endorsed by 63 countries with more expected to follow over time. Among the European countries signed are Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, UK; other major signatories so far include Brazil, Japan, USA and the host country UAE.
While critics may see this paper as mostly a public relation spectacle, integral reporting mechanisms may actually affect some meaningful regulatory interventions, especially in developing countries. At least, it can provide a leverage for the industry to request more action from governments who have not moved at all in regard to implementing energy efficiency requirements.
The real takeaways
Eurovent brought new perspectives to the table, which will be taken on by UNEP in the next year to receive wider attention as was possible during COP28. The relevance of ventilation for cooling, but also comfort and health, has been eye-opening for the audience and highly appreciated by UNEP. The cooperation between both organisations has been mutually beneficial and educational and we look forward to continuing and intensifying the relationship this year on several levels. The Cooling Pledge will have to prove itself over the next years, but we should give it credit for the time being and see it as a long missing recognition of the crucial role cooling plays in the fight to reduce and cope with global warming. Higher energy efficiency requirements in markets outside the already well-regulated EU will ultimately provide better business opportunities for our exporters, which in times of stagnating home markets should be most welcome.