Global climate action got a big boost last month at two international meetings in Germany and Canada.
On Nov. 18, just hours before the UN Climate Conference (COP23) ended in Germany, Sweden became the 20th country to ratify the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol – which requires the phasedown of high-polluting refrigerants commonly used in air conditioners and other cooling equipment. The treaty, which calls for curbing use of these chemicals by more than 80 percent over the next 30 years, will now be entered into force in January 2019.
One week later, at the 30th anniversary meeting of the Montreal Protocol in Montreal, Canada, parties agreed to a three-year replenishment of $540 million to fund the continuing phaseout of the refrigerants, known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). They also backed key findings of a new Technology & Economic Assessment Panel study highlighting the wide-ranging opportunities for energy efficiency gains in the HFC phasedown under the Kigali Agreement.
“Kigali will deliver new momentum to the world’s efforts to avoid dangerous global warming and accelerate clean growth,” said Canada Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, speaking in Montreal last month. “I'm very proud that Canada is among the leaders in ratifying this amendment.”
The twin ripples of these actions are hugely important. Energy efficiency gains alone have the potential to avoid significant CO2 emissions, equal to production from up to 1,600 medium-sized peak-load power plants by 2030 and up to 2,500 by 2050, according to estimates by the Lawrence Berkley Laboratory.
Combining the HFC phasedown with energy efficiency gains in cooling could help avoid as much as 1 degree Celsius of global warming by 2100. “The 1 degree Celsius of avoided warming may be the most significant contribution the world could make to the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, who participated in the Montreal Protocol meetings.
But achieving these pollution reductions will require extraordinary changes from global leaders working to deliver sustainable cooling solutions to everyone on the planet. Over 1 billion people worldwide do not have access to energy, and therefore lack access to basic cooling technologies; from refrigeration for food and medical supplies to keeping work and home environments safe and cool to deal with ever-rising global temperatures.
Closing the world’s cooling access gap is the focus of Sustainable Energy for All’s “Cooling for All” initiative, which will focus on creating a direct intersection between three internationally agreed upon goals for the first time: the Paris Climate Agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Kigali Amendment.
As part of this effort, a Global Panel on Access to Cooling was formed earlier this year. The panel brings together high-level leaders from government, academia, civil society, business and finance who will work together to better understand the challenges and opportunities of providing access to cooling solutions for all, including vulnerable populations in the world’s poorest countries.
Several panel members expressed optimism about the recent progress on the Kigali Amendment front – in particular, the stronger focus on energy efficiency.
“The recent meeting in Montreal was another positive step for the Montreal Protocol’s contribution to realizing the huge opportunity from cooling efficiency,” said Dan Hamza-Goodcare, Executive Director of the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program, which is funding the Cooling for All effort. “Participants recognized the critical role of maintaining cooling technology stock and the urgency for higher product standards. More work is also needed on financing mechanisms to unlock the economic and health benefits from cooling efficiency across the world.”
Jürgen Fischer, President of Danfoss Cooling, says there are significant environmental risks if clean, super-efficient solutions are not used to meet fast-rising cooling demand.
“As a market leader within technology using low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants, Danfoss and the cooling industry are ready to make it possible for countries to implement the (Kigali) amendment,” Fischer said. “We see this as the first step, and expect that the use of low GWP refrigerants will lead to more energy efficient solutions. We can already start today, as the technology is available and cooling and heating systems can be improved with big success in a cost-effective way.”
The panel, co-chaired by government leaders from the Rwanda and the Marshall Islands, will be producing a comprehensive report in 2018 that offers evidence based solutions on how we can accelerate the uptake of efficient and sustainable cooling solutions at the speed and scale needed.
Photo credit: CWCS