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Global access to cooling gaps and 2030 forecast

Chilling Prospects 2022

Chapter 1

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Chilling Prospects 2022 shows us that the risks to people, products and the planet are growing, with the risk from a lack of access to cooling rising again compared to last year.

This chapter summarizes global access to cooling risks, assesses populations at risk in high-impact countries and non-high-impact countries, and provides a forecast for access to cooling in 2030 using SDG-based scenarios. The data in this report make it clear: equitable economies, access to sustainable energy, and just, inclusive clean energy transitions are only possible with sustainable cooling for all.

For millions of people, daily life carries on when temperatures hit heatwave levels. But those living below the poverty line or without access to reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy, their ability to adapt and thrive is held back without access to cooling.

The risks of extreme heat to human health and productivity are already apparent and increase as temperatures rise. A lack of access to cooling also threatens the essential products we rely on such as COVID-19 vaccines, medicines, and nutritious food – and the ability to get them to the last mile where they are needed most. Globally, failing to deliver on growing cooling needs without sustainable solutions will put the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) out of reach for too many. 

Cooling is also a make-or-break issue for the planet. Cooling already consumes 17 percent of global electricity demand, and this figure could triple by 2050. [1]  Without access to sustainable, affordable solutions and holistic planning to meet cooling needs, achieving SDG7 will be delayed, threatening the Paris Agreement and our ambition for a net-zero future.  

Today, it is the poor who suffer the most from a lack of access to sustainable cooling. This includes farmers, who can’t grow and sell perishable crops due to lack of access to cold chains that connect them to more lucrative markets. It also includes women, who are at high risk of heat stress in their jobs and during pregnancy; youth, whose opportunity and productivity are being diminished in the absence of comfortable learning environments; and children who may suffer the consequences of ineffective vaccines. [2]  According to new research from The Lancet, in 2019 over 350,000 people across the world lost their lives due to extreme heat. [3]

Notes and references

[1] IEA, Future of Cooling, 2018. 
[2] SEforALL (2021). Cooling For All and Gender. Link.
[3] Burkart, et al, Health in a World of Extreme Heat, The Lancet Vol 398, August 2021. Link.