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8th December 2023 (8 Topics)

Global Cooling Pledge at COP28: How refrigerators and ACs contribute to global warming

Context

Recently, Sixty-three countries, including the US, Canada, and Kenya, signed up to the world’s first-ever pledge to drastically cut cooling emissions at the on-going COP28 climate summit.

About

The Urgency of Cooling Emission Reduction:

  • As climate change intensifies, the world faces a new challenge in the form of cooling emissions.
  • The recently signed Global Cooling Pledge, with 63 participating countries including the US, Canada, and Kenya, marks a historic commitment to reduce cooling emissions by at least 68% by 2050.

Cooling Emissions and Their Origins:

  1. Refrigerants and Greenhouse Gases
  • Refrigerants in appliances: Cooling emissions primarily arise from refrigerants used in appliances like air conditioners and refrigerators.
  • CFCs: Historically, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were widely used but were phased out due to their harmful impact on the ozone layer.
  • HFCs and HCFCs: Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) replaced CFCs but pose a new problem as potent greenhouse gases.
    • HFC-134a, commonly used in fridges, has a global warming potential 3,400 times that of CO2.
  1. Leakage and Improper Disposal
  • HFCs and HCFCs are released from damaged appliances or car air conditioning systems.
  • Ninety percent of refrigerant emissions occur at the end of the equipment's life, often due to improper disposal.
  • Electricity used to power cooling appliances, largely sourced from fossil fuels, also contributes to cooling emissions.

The Impact of Cooling Emissions on Global Warming

  1. Escalating Demand and Vicious Cycle
  • Cooling emissions currently account for 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Expected to triple by 2050 due to rising global temperatures leading to increased demand for cooling appliances.
  • A destructive feedback loop: as global warming worsens, the demand for cooling rises, further contributing to warming.
  1. Alarming Consumption Trends
  • Energy consumption for space cooling has tripled since 1990.
  • Consumption increased by over 5% from 2021 to last year.
  • Consumption rates set to skyrocket, especially in developing countries reliant on fossil fuels.

Solutions: Addressing Cooling Emissions and Phasing Out HFCs

  1. The Kigali Amendment
  • Over 150 countries signed the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol in 2016.
  • A commitment to reducing HFC consumption by 80% by 2047, potentially avoiding 0.4 degrees Celsius of global warming by 2100.
  1. Phasing Out HFCs
  • Promotion of climate-friendly chemicals, known as natural refrigerants, such as ammonia, hydrocarbons, and CO2.
  • These alternatives have lower or zero global warming potential.
  1. Proper Management and Disposal
  • Critical need for proper disposal of appliances at the end of their life.
  • The management and reuse of refrigerant gases could significantly reduce global CO2 emissions.
  1. Beyond Air Conditioning: Sustainable Cooling Solutions
  • Emphasis on cooling buildingswithout relying solely on air conditioners.
  • Improved insulation materials and better ventilation in building designs to reduce the need for energy-intensive cooling.

Way Forward: A Collective Effort for a Cooler Planet

  • The Global Cooling Pledge signifies a critical step in addressing the escalating threat of cooling emissions.
  • As the world grapples with the impacts of climate change, concerted efforts to reduce cooling emissions and phase out potent greenhouse gases are essential.
  • The pledge reflects a shared responsibility to create a sustainable and cooler future for the planet.

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