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Taking the Sustainable Cooling Pledge at COP28

By District Energy posted 11-30-2023 16:36


As the world continues to warm, sustainable cooling is one of the world’s top energy concerns, and a central theme of the COP28 meeting in Dubai. The COP28 Presidency is spearheading the Global Cooling Pledge at the annual international climate event. The pledge is voluntary, and its aim is to “raise ambition and international cooperation through collective targets on improving efficiency and climate friendly approaches, while increasing access to sustainable cooling for the most vulnerable.”

The importance of cooling systems that are sustainable, but also reliable, efficient and resilient cannot be overstated. In fact, one recent study from researchers at NASA and Columbia University found that the world could surpass the climate warming threshold of 1.5°C sometime this decade – years earlier than previously thought.

District Cooling Summit at COP28

The Global Cooling Pledge is not only an initiative that IDEA supports, but it’s also one which we have signed onto and are acting upon. Those actions begin at COP28 in Dubai, where, in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) District Energy in Cities Initiative, IDEA is organizing a District Cooling Summit.

The summit is being hosted by Dubai-based Emirates Central Cooling System Corporation PJSC (Empower), and it will feature two panels of experts to discuss how to develop, implement, scale and fund district cooling networks, particularly in emerging economies.

The first panel will include Ahmad Bin Shafar, CEO of Empower, Andrea Voigt, Head of Global Public Affairs at Danfoss Climate Solutions and the Cool Coalition, Ommid Saberi, Senior Manager, Climate Business Department at the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, Steve Swinson, IDEA Board Member Emeritus and Carlyle Coutinho, CEO of Enwave. The second panel will feature industry leaders from the Middle East, from organizations including Khalid Al Marzooqi, CEO, Tabreed, Ahmed Al-Ammari, CEO,  Marafeq Qatar, Joyce Honeine, Program Management Director at the Dubai Supreme Energy Council, Dr. Abid El Moubadder, CEO, Emicool and Ahmad Bin Shafar, CEO of Empower.

During the panels, Bin Shafar will discuss how Empower was able to build its massive amount of district cooling infrastructure in just two decades, which has helped to support the growth of Dubai during that time. Empower is currently the world’s largest district cooling services provider by capacity, with more than 1,400 buildings, a connected capacity of approximately 1.4 million refrigeration tons of cooling capacity. Bin Shafar will also talk about how district cooling has been employed in the United Arab Emirates as a strategy to conserve both electricity and water.

The panel discussion will showcase strategies and technologies employed in Dubai can be adopted and implemented in locations around the world. For example, Coutinho will share insights from Enwave’s experience in Toronto operating a deep lake water cooling system leveraging cold lake water for renewable district cooling for downtown.  Swinson will share his experiences in Houston at TECO providing district cooling to mission-critical healthcare institutions at Texas Medical Center, as well his experiences in Chicago, where CenTrio operates North America’s largest carbon-free district cooling system using ice thermal storage and integrating river water to conserve over 250 million gallons of potable water annually.  Bin Shafar, Swinson and Coutinho all have valuable experience with district cooling systems and are willing to share their knowledge to aid cities, investors and policymakers in deploying district cooling systems to cut emissions, conserve water and save energy.

District cooling in emerging economies

In a similar way to Dubai, in many emerging economies people are seeking to adopt air conditioning technologies such as district cooling for survival and daily productivity – it's something that’s critical at a very human level, not just simply as a luxury for comfort during hot weather.. This need for cooling will only intensify, as cities continue to become more dense and populations grow – the heat island effect is no longer something we only see in places you would historically expect, including Dubai or Phoenix, but it is now something people must contend with in northern, traditionally cooler cities such as London and Vancouver.

District cooling can be an important component of our cities – now and in the future. It’s a technology that has the ability to connect to a renewable energy source and efficiently cool at scale – connecting to hundreds of buildings at once. By aggregating multiple buildings, district cooling systems achieve economies of scale that enable technology investments at scale like thermal storage, renewable cooling and energy recovery.  District cooling systems typically operate at twice the efficiency of standard air conditioning, reducing demand on the electrical grid, conserving water, and providing highly reliable and resilient cooling services year-round.

If you are someone who is responsible for utilities, citizen safety, or community sustainability and resiliency, district cooling is a tool you should have in your toolkit.

For more information on “District Cooling as a Climate Solution”, please visit for more insight on industry collaboration at COP28 and beyond.