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This paper presents a pioneering benefit assessment framework and indicative quantification of the community and national benefits of operating cost savings from super-efficient room air conditioning (RAC) that are spent locally and not for imported fuel, electricity, and power plants. It also estimates the benefits of expanded employment to replace and service the new RACs and to recover and destroy obsolete and contaminated ozone-depleting and greenhouse gas (GHG) refrigerants. Shifting spending from foreign to local purchase improves balance of trade, strengthens domestic currency, and creates jobs and prosperity as funds circulate in the local economy. Added to that are the community benefits of mass replacement of RACs and their service to maintain energy efficiency over the life of the appliance. This community impact grows over time as savings accumulate on avoided fuel and energy infrastructure and as the income from the new jobs circulates in the local economy.

The International Energy Agency expects the global stock of room air conditioners (RACs) to triple between today and 2050, with critical implications for energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Because China produces approximately 70% of the world’s RACs, it is in a unique position to lead a global transition to higher-efficiency RACs with substantially lower environmental impact. To date, however, Chinese policies have targeted relatively modest RAC efficiency increases. We recommend that China target production of RACs that use low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants and are at least as efficient as the most efficient RACs produced today in China or on the global market. Specifically, we recommend that China set minimum energy performance standards for RACs at China annual performance factor (APF) 5.4 in 2025 and China APF 6.9 in 2030. This leadership would provide a longer-term policy signal to RAC manufacturers in China, enabling them to meet the efficiency targets cost-effectively by providing adequate time for investment planning. We project that full implementation of our recommended policy could result in global electricity consumption savings of 74 petawatt-hours, CO2 reductions of 49 billion metric tons, and bill savings of 6 trillion U.S. dollars (cumulative benefits 2020–2050). The policy is viable in China because of its provision of long-term certainty for manufacturers and their demonstrated ability to produce low-GWP RACs with the required efficiencies. Exploiting the parallel transition away from high-GWP refrigerants under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol would provide manufacturing efficiencies and substantial savings opportunities.

The demand for air conditioners that provide thermal comfort is steadily growing across the African continent as consumers seek to improve their quality of life in the face of urbanization and rising global temperatures. Since 2016, Africa’s market for new split room air conditioners has grown by approximately 5%, annually. As manufacturing and industrialized economies place increasingly stringent standards on room ACs sold domestically, while allowing continued export of technology that cannot legally be sold in the country of export as a consequence of failure to meet environmental, safety, energy efficiency, or other product standards, importing countries risk becoming dumping grounds for inefficient, environmentally harmful products using obsolete refrigerants. Weak or non-existent energy performance standards and the lack of proactive anti-environmental dumping policies in many African countries have facilitated environmentally harmful dumping of inefficient, high-global warming potential cooling products into African markets.

This report details the extent of the problem across ten countries in North, West, East, and Southern Africa, ultimately providing policymakers with a set of solutions to encourage a transition toward highly-efficient, sustainable cooling technologies.

By combining energy efficiency improvements with the transition away from super-polluting refrigerants, the world could avoid cumulative greenhouse gas emissions of up to 210-460 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) over the next four decades, depending on future rates of decarbonisation. This is roughly equal to 4-8 years of total annual global greenhouse gas emissions, based on 2018 levels.

There are many policy options and approaches to seize these benefits explored here.

This paper explains how Moroccan government authorities are cooperating with international organizations in finding the way forward with a combination of more stringent Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS), private and public AC Buyers Clubs, and economic incentives such as import duties that favour efficiency and caps the global warming potential (GWP) of refrigerants used in imported room ACs. The Morocco AC Buyers Club will use comprehensive calculations of the carbon footprint and economic impact of room ACs tailored to local Moroccan climate and use conditions.

The global phasedown of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol will make a crucial contribution to slowing climate change and meeting the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement. An even faster phasedown could be achieved with a more extensive replacement of high-GWP HFCs with commercially available low-GWP alternatives in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment. Climate emissions also can be reduced by collecting HFCs at the end of the useful life of cooling equipment and either recycling or destroying them. Such strategies could avoid up to 0.5°C of warming by 2100. 

This report is a comprehensive assessment of the climate and development benefits of efficient and climate-friendly cooling.

Chapter 25 in Health of People, Health of Planet and Our Responsibility: Climate Change, Air Pollution and Health (Al-Delaimy, W. K., Ramanathan, & V., Sorondo, M. S. eds). Springer, Cham. Pages 321-331.

Climate change is becoming an existential threat with warming in excess of 2 °C within the next three decades and 4–6 °C within the next several decades. Warming of such magnitudes will expose as many as 75% of the world’s population to deadly heat stress in addition to disrupting the climate and weather worldwide. Climate change is an urgent problem requiring urgent solutions. This chapter lays out urgent and practical solutions that are ready for implementation now, will deliver benefits in the next few critical decades, and place the world on a path to achieving the long-term targets of the Paris Agreement. The approach consists of four building blocks and three levers to implement ten scalable solutions described in this chapter. These solutions will enable society to decarbonize the global energy system by 2050 through efficiency and renewables, drastically reduce short-lived climate pollutants, and stabilize the warming well below 2 °C both in the near term (before 2050) and in the long term (after 2050). The solutions include an atmospheric carbon extraction lever to remove CO2 from the air. The amount of CO2 that must be removed ranges from negligible (if the emissions of CO2 from the energy system and short-lived climate pollutants have started to decrease by 2020 and carbon neutrality is achieved by 2050) to a staggering one trillion tons (if the carbon lever is not pulled and emissions of climate pollutants continue to increase until 2030).