Cooling and heating are—for those lucky enough to have them—a lifesaver, keeping children healthy, vaccines stable, food fresh, energy supplies stable, economies productive and environments clean.
But there is a cruel irony at play. Cooling and heating systems consume over 50 percent of building energy and run largely on fossil fuels—at a level of 84 percent in the European Union, for example. Consequently, they are pushing our planet’s temperature up to dangerous levels.
We can expect more greenhouse gas emissions from the sector as the planet warms and middle classes expand in developing economies. We need this growth to provide equitable access to the 1.1 billion people who face imminent threats from a lack of cooling.
With energy consumption in the refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump sectors expected to surge 33 times by 2100, we need to build up renewable energy and energy efficiency to avoid runaway climate change. This is possible, as the work of UN Environment’s District Energy in Cities Initiative is showing in Bosnia and Herzegovina, India and the 14 other countries where it works.