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Cold comfort: Countries get help to cool down in a warming world

by Sonia Elks | @SoniaElks | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 24 April 2019 21:38 GMT

A visitor takes a photo of Gree's air conditioners during the China Import and Export Fair, also known as Canton Fair, in the southern city of Guangzhou, China April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

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By 2050, energy use for cooling is projected to triple, while in hotter countries such as India, China, Brazil, and Indonesia it could grow five-fold, experts say

By Sonia Elks

LONDON, April 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Developing countries facing rising temperatures as a result of climate change will get help to cool down in potentially deadly heat, under a World Bank programme announced on Wednesday.

Around the world, people are facing more regular and severe heatwaves and droughts, largely as a result of climate change, while energy-intensive air conditioning and refrigerants threaten to further drive up emissions as the world warms.

"A sustainable approach to cooling is central to addressing climate change" both in terms of holding the line on emissions and cutting the risks from increasing heat, said Marc Sadler, from the World Bank's Climate Funds Management Unit.

"This programme is a way to accelerate collaborative solutions and raise finance to meet the demand for cooling," he said.

Heat is often neglected as a threat because it is both an invisible and hard-to-document disaster that claims lives largely behind closed doors, climate experts have said.

But the impacts can be profound, from heat-related deaths to worsening food waste and significant losses of productivity as workers struggle in hot conditions.

A lack of adequate cold storage and refrigerated transport contributes to 1.5 million deaths that could be prevented through effective vaccine campaigns, and to the waste of about a third of the total food produced annually, the World Bank said.

Meanwhile, demand for cooling systems is set to rocket globally, largely driven by growing populations, urbanisation and rising income levels in developing countries, it said, as climate change also pushes up demand.

By 2050, energy use for cooling is projected to triple, while in hotter countries such as India, China, Brazil, and Indonesia it is expected to grow five-fold.

Under the new programme, the World Bank will work with countries to develop market infrastructure, financing and policies to enable more sustainable cooling systems on a large scale.

It will focus on projects ranging from refrigeration and air conditioning through to cooling heat islands in cities and looking at innovative materials to create cooler surfaces.

The project be funded with a $3 million grant from the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program, a philanthropic collaborative working to help developing countries transition to energy-efficient, climate-friendly, and affordable cooling solutions.

"Extreme heat risks are one of the most predictable, deadly and urgent climate change issues facing us globally," said Julie Arrighi, a disaster preparedness expert with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.

"It will be crucial that this effort uses an inclusive implementation process to ensure solutions are accessible to those most vulnerable to deadly heat risks, including older persons, outdoor workers, people with chronic health conditions and people living in slums and informal settlements," she said. (Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit

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