Making air conditioners and fridges more energy efficient and using more climate-friendly refrigerants can significantly slow global warming, according to a U.N.-backed report released Friday.
The report published by the U.N. Environment Program and the International Energy Agency claims greater efficiency and the replacement of harmful refrigerants could prevent the equivalent of four to eight years of current global greenhouse gas emissions over the next four decades.
Demand for cooling appliances is predicted to almost quadruple by 2050 as the planet heats up and more people need air conditioners. But cheap devices often consume a lot of electricity that's generated from coal or gas-fired power plants, which in turn fuel global warming.
"Air conditioning is a two-edged sword," said Durwood Zaelke, a U.S.-based environmental lawyer who contributed to the report. "You need it because the world is warming, but it contributes to warming unless you make it super efficient."
The authors of the new report call for "national cooling action plans" that include minimum energy performance standards and clear labeling of devices to help consumers choose the most efficient and climate-friendly refrigerants.
They also urge governments to promote ways of reducing the need for refrigerants, with energy-efficient buildings, tree-planting to cool cities and district-wide cooling systems.