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Building back better: How climate-friendly cooling can support a clean, resilient Covid-19 recovery

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Covid-19 and the measures being taken to mitigate the associated public health crisis are creating huge shocks across the globe. In response, governments and financial institutions are quickly developing fiscal and monetary packages that are unprecedented in scale.

The first round of response has been focused on stabilization, for social protection and safety net measures during lockdown. In the second round, stimulus measures have shifted focus toward rebooting economies as lockdowns lift, with longer-term structural recovery plans to follow. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, International Energy Agency, European Commission, and countless others across industry, academia, and civil society are challenging governments to keep sight of the climate crisis, and to use Covid-19 stimulus packages and recovery plans as an opportunity to build back better, for a cleaner, more resilient world.

Cooling plays a central role in supporting societies through this crisis; from protecting temperature-sensitive medical supplies and patients in crowded hospitals, to ensuring reliable food supplies while food systems are disrupted. Efficient, climate-friendly cooling could also help many struggling businesses get back on the road to profitability through significant energy cost savings. All of this, in turn, will help governments meet near-term stimulus objectives while also meeting the commitments that were made as a part of the Paris Agreement, Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are all crucial for a better recovery.

In a new briefing, Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program (K-CEP) and E3G highlight the vital role that cooling is currently playing to help manage the health and economic shocks of Covid-19, and outlines how cooling is crucial to a resilient recovery. The briefing identifies six high-impact opportunities that can reduce emissions, increase job creation, and enhance economic output through the inclusion of efficient, climate-friendly cooling in stimulus packages. These include:

  1. Bailouts for hard-hit sectors include sustainable cooling. Funds that are made available to bail out hard-hit sectors (e.g., hospitality) are made conditional on the adoption of efficient, climate-friendly cooling, which offers long-term reduced costs for businesses and sets industries on a path toward decarbonization.
  2. Cooling efficiency in the built environment. Rebate and incentive programs encourage the uptake of more efficient appliances and technologies in homes, businesses, hospitals, and other buildings, stimulating the manufacturing sector and creating jobs and more disposable income due to energy cost savings, which in turn boosts economic activity.
  3. Resilient and responsive cold chain logistics for healthcare and food security. Immediate and future growth in cooling demand for food and medical supply chains are met with more efficient cold chain equipment and less fragmented systems. This would reduce food and vaccine waste, improve health outcomes, and expand health system capacity for delivery of routine vaccinations, while also building capacity to respond to future shocks.
  4. Cool retrofits and passive technologies. Low capital initiatives support labour-intensive projects by retrofitting houses, schools, and public buildings with better passive cooling features. This would reduce indoor temperatures and cooling needs at a low marginal cost, while also returning people to work
  5. Expanding financing models to meet cooling needs. Catalyze an explosion in Pay-As-You-Save (PAYS), on-bill financing, Cooling as a Service (CaaS), and other models that encourage spending now and unleash savings and future pay back.
  6. Public and private investment in R&D for cooling. Grants and loans sustain innovation in efficient, climate-friendly cooling, offering leading innovators a competitive advantage.

While these opportunities do not fully reflect the many critical roles that cooling will play in the Covid-19 recovery, action on these will set the cooling sector on the path to decarbonization and sustainability. We welcome your views on how efficient, climate-friendly cooling can support a clean and resilient recovery and efforts to build back better.

Read the full briefing on the K-CEP website here for more.

Read our full E3G newsletter on the critical role of cooling for resilience to future shocks here.

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