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COVID-19 challenges cooling for all

Without access to sustainable cooling, a new report says countries will struggle to recover from the significantly higher rates of poverty and malnutrition brought on by Covid-19,

A new report from Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) – Chilling Prospects: Tracking Sustainable Cooling for All 2020 – finds that over one billion people still lack cooling access, with the pandemic intensifying the challenge ahead just as peak summer temperatures hit for many.

The report looked at 54 countries and finds that 1.02 billion people lack cooling access and remain at high risk. Just 22 million people are said to have gained access to adequate refrigeration, a reliable fan, air conditioning or other solutions since last year’s Chilling Prospects report.

A further 2.2 billion lower-middle income people are only able to afford cheaper, less energy efficient air conditioners, it is claimed, having a negative impact on the climate.

New Chilling Prospects analysis also shows that the developing world will face a significant productivity penalty without access to sustainable cooling. The 54 high-impact countries identified already face an estimated annual economic loss of US$630bn due to heat stress, including a $301bn loss in the agricultural sector that many countries rely on for economic development. Evidence also suggests that outdoor and migrant workers, as well as women and girls, are most vulnerable.

As the global community rushes to produce a Covid-19 vaccine, Chilling Prospects highlights the inequalities in the vaccine cold chain that resulted in over 13.5 million people in the world’s least developed countries missing a vaccine by April, with an estimated 117 million children at risk of missing another temperature-sensitive vaccine against measles.

The report also highlights the need to build cold chains for a Covid-19 vaccine. Close to half of the vaccine candidates currently in Phase 1 or later trials would require storage in a -80°C cold chain, which would require building a new cold chain for low-income countries.

“We must accelerate access to energy efficient cooling solutions that will protect people against the immediate public health and safety concerns caused by the pandemic, as well as support long-term economic recovery,” said Damilola Ogunbiyi, CEO and special representative of the UN secretary-general for Sustainable Energy for All and co-chair of UN-Energy.

SEforALL recently published guidelines on how countries can ‘recover better’ from the pandemic by investing in sustainable energy to help close electricity access gaps.

To coincide with the release of the Chilling Prospects report, Sustainable Energy for All has also launched a new campaign to shine a light on innovative sustainable cooling solutions. The #ThisIsCool campaign promotes sustainable cooling solutions and aims to bring greater awareness and engagement with solutions that can offer faster progress on global climate and energy goals.

“Cooling for all does not mean an air conditioner or a refrigerator in every home; it means providing more sustainable and affordable solutions to address the needs of the vulnerable without exacerbating the climate crisis or causing a spike in energy demand,” said Brian Dean, head of energy efficiency and cooling at Sustainable Energy for All. “The good news is there are already a wide range of sustainable cooling solutions that, with the right policy and financial support from governments, can help lower energy demand, reduce GHG emissions, bring better quality of life and deliver faster progress on the Paris Agreement.”

#ThisIsCool will highlight different technologies, solutions and policy and finance measures that can meet growing cooling needs. This will also include a new Cooling for All Solutions Assessment toolkit that will support governments, financiers and communities to provide cooling access that will support healthcare, human comfort and safety, as well as food and nutrition. Cooling Post

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