Cooling industry must accelerate net-zero efforts, report says

Published by Rhys Taylor-Brown on April 3rd 2021, 10:02am

Five major cooling suppliers are making significant progress toward net-zero carbon emissions, but these represent fewer than ten per cent out of 54 suppliers assessed in a new report from the Race to Zero campaign, indicating that the cooling industry has much work to do to catch-up with climate change action and reduce sector emissions.

The cooling industry is estimated to be responsible for seven per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and reducing this carbon footprint will be vital if the world is to meet its goal of holding the global temperature increase to under two degrees Celsius this century, as underlined in the Paris Agreement.

Indeed, the International Energy Agency has forecast that emissions from the cooling sector will double by 2030 and triple by 2100, driven by factors such as heat waves, soaring populations, urbanisation, and a growing middle class.

The UN has also identified the cooling industry as a key sector for action in its Race to Zero Breakthroughs, that will be used to incite tangible action against climate change ahead of COP26 in Glasgow this year.

The report, entitled Cooling Suppliers: Who’s Winning the Race to Net Zero, uncovered that 49 out of 54 cooling companies assessed have yet to commit to ambitious net-zero targets, despite some efforts to reduce their emissions.

The report, compiled by the Race to Zero campaign, the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program [K-CEP], the Carbon Trust and other partners in the UN Cool Coalition, assessed cooling firms against three key impact areas set out in the Cooling Climate Action Pathway.

These areas included making cooling equipment and appliances more efficient by making zero-carbon energy the norm for powering them; ultra-low global warming potential refrigerants; and passive cooling, which involves the widespread adoption of measures to avoid or reduce the need for mechanical cooling, including reductions in cooling loads, human-centric design and urban planning.

The report called on the sector to show greater ambition to keep up with net-zero carbon commitments after its findings suggested that many were lagging behind.

In the wake of the report, Johnson Controls, a global leader for smart, healthy and sustainable buildings and a renown cooling equipment producer, reaffirmed its commitments toward net-zero emissions.

The company, which employs 100,000 people in over 150 countries and is a UN Cool Coalition member, pledged to make its operations net-zero by 2040.

Clay Nesler, vice president for global energy and sustainability at Johnson Controls, said: “Johnson Controls is proud of its recent commitment to achieve the most ambitious science-based targets by 2030 and net zero carbon emissions before 2040. Smart, healthy and sustainable cooling solutions are key to accelerating the race to zero for our company as well as our customers.”

UN Cool Coalition partners have unveiled a host of new products to help guide industry stragglers back on the road toward net-zero. A ‘Cool Calculator’ scenario planning tool is also being launched to help companies and governments run simple calculations on different ways to decarbonise the cooling industry, which will enable firms to identify the set of solutions that works best for them.

Meanwhile, the UK Environmental Investigation Agency [EIA] has established a net-zero cooling product guide that businesses, governments and consumers can use to reduce their cooling carbon footprint by helping them select more energy-efficient products which operate on natural refrigerants with ultra-low global warming potential.

The EIA’s Fionnuala Walravens said: “As consumers and producers of cooling look to reduce their carbon footprint, urgent action on both refrigerants and energy efficiency is needed. EIA’s Pathway to net-zero cooling product list offers a range of climate-friendly solutions available now.”

The EIA’s list is also accompanied by a call to governments to take more action to encourage firms toward more sustainable cooling, and suggests that ministers across the world outline plans for the cooling industry in their commitments under the Paris Agreement and explore legislation to hasten the phasing out process of hydrofluorocarbons, the refrigerants that are responsible for global warming and are to be phased out under the Kigali Amendment within the internationally agreed Montreal Protocol.

Nigel Topping, UK High Level Champion for COP26, commented: “The development and expansion of net-zero cooling is a critical part of our Race to Zero emissions. In addition to technological breakthroughs and ambitious legislation, we also need sustainable consumer purchasing to help deliver wholesale systems change, and as such I welcome the EIA cooling products guide as an important contribution to accelerating the race.”

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Authored By

Rhys Taylor-Brown
Junior Editor
April 3rd 2021, 10:02am

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