The Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), a global initiative launched by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon September 2011 and based in Vienna and Washington, released its first-ever report in July last. Titled, Chilling Prospects: Providing Sustainable Cooling for All, report quantifies the growing risks and assesses the opportunities of the global cooling challenge. As per the report, Bangladesh may face immediate risk from lack of access to sustainable cooling as the country is at high risk of climate change impact. Nine countries have the biggest populations facing significant cooling risks. These countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America include: India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, China, Mozambique and Sudan. There are over 1.1 billion people globally who face immediate risks from lack of access to sustainable cooling.
Cooling underpins the ability of millions to escape poverty, to keep our children healthy, vaccines stable, food nutritious, and our economies productive. Access to cooling is now a fundamental issue of equity. As temperatures hit record levels, this could also mean the difference between life and death for some. As they pose challenges for the health, safety, and productivity of populations across the world, these risks are both a development and climate change issue - especially in countries in Asia and Africa where access gaps are the largest.
But this challenge also offers business and entrepreneurs the opportunity of major new consumer markets which want super-efficient, affordable technologies to meet their cooling needs.
In a world facing continuously rising temperatures, access to cooling is not a luxury - it is essential for everyday life. It guarantees safe cold supply chains for fresh produce, safe storage of life-saving vaccines, and safe work and housing conditions. This chilling prospects report is a wake-up call. We must meet these needs in an energy efficient way, and without using ozone damaging substances. If not, the risks to life, health and the planet are significant. But there are, as mentioned above, equally important business opportunities for those that face up to the challenge and act early.
Almost 2.3 billion people represent a different kind of cooling risk. A growing middle class, where limited purchasing options mean they may only be able to afford to buy less expensive and less efficient cooling devices, which could spike global energy demand with profound climate impacts. It is also estimated that cooling is now responsible for about 10 per cent of global warming and is growing rapidly. Future choices about refrigerants, the efficiency of cooling technologies, and how cooling is powered will have a significant impact on achieving the Paris Climate Agreement. Previous research indicates that by 2050, work hour losses by country due to excessive heat and lack of access to cooling are expected to be more than 2 percent and a high as 12 percent.
With the destructive effects of climate change now being widely felt, Chilling Prospects issues an urgent call-to-action to government policymakers, business leaders, investors and civil society to increase access to sustainable cooling solutions for all. Government policymakers should immediately measure gaps in access to cooling in their own countries, as an evidence base for more proactive and integrated policy-making. At the same time the businesses, governments and finance actors should collaborate to assess and act on the enormous commercial and economic opportunities, including productivity, employment and growth gains from providing sustainable cooling solutions for all. All stakeholders should accelerate their innovation efforts and embrace a paradigm shift - thinking more holistically about the way we provide cooling, focusing firstly on reducing heat loads and then about how to deliver cooling affordably and sustainably.
The developing countries, like Bangladesh, are bearing burden of excessive carbon emissions caused by industrialised countries, which are mainly responsible for global warming, a great challenge for the planet. Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries due to adverse impact of global climate change despite having little contribution to global carbon emission. Responsible countries must provide financial and technical support to climate change vulnerable countries aiming at tackling its negative impacts. Bangladesh alone cannot face climate change issue as it is a global phenomenon. It should move bilaterally as well as multilaterally along with strong bargaining capacity to pile up pressure on rich nations so that they extend their financial and technical supports to climate vulnerable countries in general and Bangladesh in particular.
Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General Education Cadre.