The Cold Economy

The need for cooling

Effective cooling is essential to preserve food and medicine. It underpins industry and economic growth, is key to sustainable urbanisation as well as provides a ladder out of rural poverty. It increasingly makes much of the world bearable - or even safe - to live in. 

The problem of cooling 

The growth of artificial cooling will create massive demand for energy and, unless we can reduce our need for cooling and roll out solutions for clean and sustainable cooling provision, this will cause high levels of CO2e and pollution.  

The challenge

The world must not solve a social crisis by creating an environmental catastrophe; we need to ensure access to affordable cooling with minimum environmental impact and maximum efficient use of natural and waste resources.

What are we doing to solve this

The Cold Economy is the development of cohesive and integrated (technology agnostic) system-level strategies to mitigate demand and meet cooling needs sustainably within our climate change, natural resource and clean air targets, while supporting economy growth.

This involves understanding the multiple cooling needs and the size and location of the thermal, waste and wrong-time energy resources to define the novel energy vectors, thermal stores, clean cooling technologies and novel business models, policy and societal interventions to optimally integrate those resources and cooling needs through self-organising systems. 

As we begin to realise the enormous scale of our future need for cooling across the globe, and the impact it will have on our energy systems and natural environment, people are increasingly asking “what do we mean by ‘clean cooling’?”.

With Dr Tim Fox, Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor in Clean Energy and Public Engagement at Exeter University, colleagues in the Birmingham Energy Institute and others, we have drafted a statement on Clean Cooling (PDF). We welcome comments on the description. Please send your comments to

Professor Toby Peters, Professor in Cold Economy and Fellow of the Institute for Global Innovation.                

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