Chilling Prospects 2022: Putting natural refrigerants on the map in the Middle East and North Africa

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Chilling Prospects 2022

Reflections on five years of the Kigali Amendment by the Cool Up programme

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The story of cooling technology is a cautionary tale. The earliest cooling technologies, popularized throughout the 1800s, made use of natural refrigerants like carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons. During the 1930s, safety concerns led to the invention of new solutions: chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). After 1980, as it emerged that CFCs were depleting the ozone layer, first hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) then hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) appeared to take their place. But again, a hidden environmental harm appeared. While kind to the ozone layer, both HCFCs and HFCs have high global warming potential. 

Given this history, there is a high risk that the next generation of refrigerants developed to replace HCFCs and HFCs will also have unforeseen environmental consequences. Fortunately, safety standards and cooling technology have moved on since the 1800s, rendering both carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons entirely safe to use. Replacing HCFCs and HFCs with these proven natural refrigerants could avoid as much as 0.4°C (0.7°F) in global temperature rise by 2100, while helping countries meet their commitments to the Kigali Amendment as well as their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). 

Affordable, accessible and sustainable cooling solutions are needed across the globe. But the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is on the frontlines of the climate crisis and still in the early stages of the cooling transition. And the time to act is now. In Egypt, for example, average temperatures have increased by more than 0.5°C (0.9°F) in each of the last three decades, with annual electricity consumption growing by over 6 percent. By 2050, temperatures in Turkey are set to soar, with expected increases of 2.5°C (4.5°F) in east and central regions and 1.5°C (2.7°F) on the coast. 

Kigali Amendment ratification status MENA

The Cool Up programme: Building a more equitable cooling future

Creating an equitable, low-energy, low-impact cooling sector is vital for the MENA region. In many MENA countries, increasing temperatures and rapid urbanization is leading to fast-growing demand for cooling and exacerbating structural challenges in the energy sector. That presents both an opportunity to create real impact and a risk of locking in unsustainable solutions. To achieve sustainable solutions for these problems at speed and at scale, stakeholders will need to work closely together. 

The Cool Up programme, funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI), part of the German government’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection, aims to bring together regional stakeholders and revive demand for natural refrigerants by creating a sustainable cooling ecosystem. The focus is on Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, four countries that are well positioned to boost both energy efficiency and natural refrigerants in the cooling and refrigeration sector. While the project, which debuted in 2021, is still in its early stages, it is already bearing fruit.

To help countries meet their Kigali Amendment and Paris Agreement commitments, the Cool Up consortium focuses on enabling cooperation between government, finance and industry. Working closely with governments, the team has already identified seven different policy areas alongside multiple ministries in each country that can help accelerate the transition to sustainable cooling. Together with financial and government players, it is developing new financing solutions that will boost the cooling transition and improve access to finance for sustainable cooling technologies. Over more than 15 meetings with national financing institutes, work has begun to identify potentials and challenges for new business models for sustainable cooling financing. 

At the industry level, work is underway on stakeholder engagement. The consortium has opened a dialogue with more than 30 industry players, sectoral associations and non-governmental organizations. It has begun developing demonstration projects to build trust, inspire innovation and help local manufacturers transition to sustainable cooling production lines. Buy-in has been rapid and encouraging.

Towards a just transition: Looking back to the future

The MENA region has the potential to become a leader in sustainable cooling, benefitting from job creation, reduced energy demand and increased independence from energy imports. By 2025, it is hoped that both the MENA region and the global cooling industry will appreciate that a return to natural solutions is vital for a climate-friendly future.

It is not in refrigerants alone that the MENA region will be looking to the past. Sustainable cooling solutions and modern passive cooling measures will form just two pieces of a holistic approach that also embraces reviving traditional architectural styles, utilizing locally sourced building materials, and working with ancient techniques of shading and planting. The MENA region led the world in natural cooling for thousands of years. It has the potential to do so once again in the future.

Chilling Prospects

Chilling Prospects 2022

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