Over a billion people, mainly in Asia and Africa, face cooling access risks, according to a report by Sustainable Energy for All, a global initiative supported by Switzerland.
Heat waves caused by climate change have a negative impact on quality of life across the board. Prolonged high temperatures not only lead to poor work performance among the population at large but also expose the elderly, the very young and the sick to potentially life-threatening risks.
Lack of access to cooling systems also poses a serious threat to food security, as many foods cannot be stored safely without refrigeration. This has a direct negative impact on the economy and livelihoods of smallholder farmers. Without access to intact cold chains enabling them to sell their products further afield at higher prices, many of them continue to engage and remain in subsistence farming.
Cooling systems are essential for survival but also contribute to global warming. Some seven to ten per cent of global CO2 emissions are caused by cooling equipment. Rising demand for air-conditioners is driving a massive increase in electricity consumption.
Moreover, most cooling devices use chlorofluorocarbons (HFCs) as refrigerants. HFCs are powerful greenhouse gases that are 23,000 more potent than carbon dioxide in contributing to climate change. As long as we continue to use cooling devices that rely on fossil-fuel-based refrigerants, we are addressing the problem of excessive heat but continuing to pollute the environment.
Breaking this vicious cycle will require a rapid reduction in the use of HFCs – which can only be achieved through a fundamental rethink and strong action in the energy, construction, transport and agriculture sectors.
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) supports two global initiatives that promote energy-efficient cooling solutions: Sustainable Energy for All and the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program, which is active in Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Chile, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan and Vietnam. Both initiatives are bolstering policies, standards and financing for climate-friendly cooling systems. The goal is for developing countries and emerging economies to set ambitious targets in their national climate policies and to deliver on them.
Innovative solutions are needed to ensure effective cooling solutions for buildings while complying with energy standards. This is where SDC projects come into play. The BEEP project for energy-efficient construction in Rajkot, an Indian city with a population of 1.3 million, for example, brings together Swiss building technology experts with local construction specialists and ministries. Energy efficiency measures implemented in 1 176 residential units have reduced room temperatures during the hottest days of summer by more than 5 degrees and increased the number of hours with comfortable room temperatures below 30 degrees from about 2 600 to about 6 300 hours.
Climate change poses many risks besides rising sea levels, natural disasters and extreme heatwaves. Developing countries are particularly at risk because they often lack the resources to develop climate adaptation strategies. Climate change is a global threat that hinders development towards a sustainable world.
"Switzerland will reinforce its foreign policy commitment to tackling climate change and protecting the environment," states Switzerland's Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23. The SDC's Global Programme “Climate Change and Environment” is also becoming an increasingly important part of Switzerland's international cooperation efforts. Climate change mitigation measures are essential to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
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