A Cool World: Tackling the energy crisis through sustainable clean cooling

Over 100 cooling and energy efficiency decision-makers and experts gathered over the 2 day congress

More than 100 cooling and energy efficiency decision-makers and experts recently joined forces at the University of Birmingham for A Cool World, the first global congress on clean cold.

Professor Toby Peters, who announced the congress during his speech at the Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) Cooling for all workshop at last year’s UN General Assembly in New York, shares his thoughts on clean cooling:

The current picture

“Cooling is essential to preserve food and medicine. It underpins data, industry and economic growth, is key to sustainable urbanisation and provides a ladder out of rural poverty. With temperatures rising, it increasingly makes much of the world bearable, or even safe to live in,” he said.

“In developing countries, billions of people live without cooling and suffer the consequences daily. The lack of adequate cold storage and refrigerated transport causes 2 million vaccine-preventable deaths each year, and the loss of 200 million tonnes of food. There is no question that we need far more cooling.”

The future of clean cooling

According to the Global Cooling Initiative, there could be more than 9.5 billion cooling appliances worldwide – more than 2.5 times than today’s 3.6 billion - by 2050. It’s also anticipated that, by 2050, overall energy consumption within the cooling sector will rise by 90 per cent too.

Furthermore, without decarbonising electricity production, an additional 2.5GT (GigaTonnes) of CO2e will be produced annually, bringing the total C02e from cooling to more than 6GT.

“Put simply, we have a problem,” explains Professor Peters.

“However, this is only half the picture. Under these projections, much of the world would still only have low penetration levels of cooling. We would still have high levels of food loss.

“With more of the world experiencing life-threatening temperatures, as well as a lack of cooling and medicines and vaccines spoiled in the supply chain, we will not see the reductions in mortality nor the social advancement and economic growth that all we aspire to through the UN Sustainable Development Goals. If anything, combined with climate change, the impacts of a lack of cooling will get worse.”

How can we achieve sustainable cooling for all?

“We must stop thinking that green electricity and technology efficiency can meet the demand alone. We need step-change solutions; new system-level approaches that reimagine the way we deliver cooling. We also need to recognise the thermal, waste and wrong-time energy resources available for cooling and accelerate the novel energy vectors, thermal stores and clean cooling technologies that can harness them to market,” adds Professor Peters.

“One concern is that investment into cooling research in the EU/UK is less than 0.22 per cent of our engineering research budget. Globally, despite the widespread need for sustainable, affordable cooling, only 0.1 per cent of Overseas Development Assistance is spent on cooling.

“Economic and social development and the environment have to live together; we can no longer have one at the expense of the other. Rather, our aim has to be a world where everyone can live well and within the sustainable limits of our planet. Clean cooling sits at the nexus of this challenge; not just clean electricity. And, with much of the demand for cooling increasing over the next decade, time is not on our side.”

Read about ‘A Cool World’
Learn more about the University of Birmingham’s major research project Clean Cold and the Globals Goals