A programme to retrofit buildings with passive or more efficient cooling should be prioritised by governments as part of their Covid economic recovery plans, a UN-backed strategy argues.
The calls have been made during a special online event hosted by the UN-backed Cool Coalition initiative and E3G thinktank to launch a new report looking at how sustainable cooling can be integrated into national and global responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Pedro Guertler, E3G’s clean economy programme leader, said the conclusions of the report highlighted that sustainable cooling should not be seen as a luxury, but rather as an essential need for everyone around the world.
The sector should therefore be considered as a policy priority alongside heating when planning decarbonisation strategies, particularly in the case of building design.
Mr Guertler said, “The building sector is at the forefront of economic recovery plans right now and it’s a priority for climate action as it produces 40 per cent of global carbon emissions.”
He argued that there were already ‘shovel ready’ projects that could be used to create jobs to support sustainable cooling in the form of large-scale retrofit work to include improved thermal insulation, as well as introducing passive cooling and ventilation systems.
Government incentives schemes were highlighted by Mr Guertler as being one path to begin to realise drastic global cuts in the environmental impact of cooling. One such example is France’s €6.7bn (£5.8bn) building energy renovation strategy. This plan has a range of aims that include increasing use of thermal insulation and decreasing heat and cooling demand nationally.
The majority of this funding will be put towards transforming public buildings in terms of how they ensure thermal comfort through the use of passive cooling design measures.
Mr Guertler also urged governments to set out what he described as ambitious long-term efficiency goals for cooling appliances. These plans should also consider the transition to less greenhouse gas intensive refrigerants that is already the focus of the EU and UK-focused F-Gas regulation.
He said, “This should include the introduction or tightening of minimum energy performance standards with implementation accelerated towards the high performing end of the appliance market through incentives for consumers as seen in Germany during the 2008 financial crisis.”
“Countries can also shape traditional bailouts for hard-hit sectors that support sustainable cooling.”
The improvement of cold chains would be another important step to both sufficiently deliver Covid-19 vaccinations and better safeguard food supplies globally, Mr Guertler added.
Stéphane Crouzat, France’s ambassador for climate negotiations, renewable energy and climate risk prevention, said during the event that the development of more efficient cooling solutions would an important step to address limited global progress on tackling the world’s climate objectives.
He argued that efforts to meet the overall climate objectives of the Paris Agreement were still not on track. This highlighted the need for clear objectives in a range of sectors such as cooling.
Mr Crouzat said that a clear trajectory for cutting carbon emissions must now to be set in line with the Paris Agreement’s aims to limit average global temperatures to well below two deg C and ideally under 1.5 deg C.
He added, “There are some good signals in fact. Carbon neutrality has become the new horizon and we’ve seen that with the EU back in 2019 and France. But some huge emitters have followed suit; China by 2060; Japan and Korea 2050.”
Mr Crouzat added that the recent decision by President Joe Biden for the US to re-engage with the Paris Climate Agreement could prove a real “Game Changer” for global decarbonisation strategies, especially ahead of the delayed international climate change conference (COP26) in Glasgow later this year.
He noted that the UK had committed to use its presidency of the G7 Group of Nations this year alongside hosting COP26 to highlight the need for rethinking buildings and key functions such as cooling with regards to low and zero carbon innovations.