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How the Cooling Industry Can Turn Down the Global Temperature

This article was originally posted on Accelerate (Special Issue #112).

The HVAC&R industry needs to implement critical changes to build back better – and help turn the tide on global warming.— By Avipsa Mahapatra

As 2020 comes to a close, many of us are reflecting on lessons learned during what was indubitably a difficult year that brought unprecedented global challenge.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a massive new global health crisis, on top of the ongoing global climate crisis, exposing vulnerabilities in social, political, and economic systems. The widespread uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, the resulting economic hardship, and the contentious recent elections have all further exacerbated historic, pre-existing inequalities and environmental injustice.

For the past few decades, we have made little of the much-needed progress towards reducing the emissions that cause global warming. The significant but temporary emission reductions that have resulted from the COVID-19 lockdown will unfortunately not be enough to change the trajectory we are already on. We are well on our way to a planet that is estimated to be over 3°C (5.4°F) hotter, resulting in irreversible and catastrophic global changes. This year, yet again one of the hottest years on record, has also inarguably shown us that cooling is an essential service, not simply to derive ambient comfort but also to cool our food and vaccines for extended periods. Unfortunately, and unnecessarily, the refrigerants often used to keep us cool continue to be the very same refrigerants that are contributing to our climate crisis.

However, despite all the uncertainty of this year and a cloudy crystal ball for 2021, three things are clear:

POLITICAL WILL HAS TO MATCH CLIMATE SCIENCE

Climate science unequivocally tells us there is no time left to waste: global greenhouse gas emissions need to drop by half by 2030 AND reach net-zero by mid-century to avoid the worst climate impacts. Cooling has to be a key part of any net-zero targets. U.S president-elect Joe Biden must take decisive early action in 2021 to turn the most ambitious climate platform ever proposed into the most ambitious climate action ever enacted. Simply put, 2021 is the point of no return. The next administration must prioritize allocating federal dollars towards fighting climate change.

There is strong bipartisan support for federal policies to address HFCs, given the win-win scenario of more American jobs, retaining industry competitiveness and the lowering of climate impact. And regardless of the political makeup of the Senate come January, the Biden-Harris Administration must prioritize rejoining the Paris climate agreement and sending the Kigali Amendment to the Senate for ratification on their very first day in office, while simultaneously working to reverse Trump’s environmental rollbacks. However, they must also do a lot more than that, making up for lost time, while ensuring that environmental and social justice remain crosscutting elements in all initiatives and measures.

We all need to ensure that climate-friendly cooling is incorporated into the “build back better” stimulus and associated green building and transportation programs. It is also vital that we address HFC refrigerant banks and support meeting net-zero building emissions.

PEOPLE CARE ABOUT THE CLIMATE

One promising sign of progress in the past years is the willingness of people, especially young people, to show the world that they aren’t afraid to use their voices and stand up for what they believe in. There has been a surge in climate activism around the world and we have heard, loud and clear, that global civilians, including Americans, care about this planet. In addition, they are not afraid to voice their support of environmental policy progress and call for corporate change.

As just one example, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) routinely receives crowdsourced submissions to our climate-friendly supermarkets map from citizen investigators who are learning about the climate impact of cooling and checking if their neighborhood store is HFC-free. We also routinely field inquiries on which is the best climatefriendly refrigerator someone can buy!

People are impatient for a radical change and no one wants the same world back again.

WE HAVE TO BUILD BACK BETTER, CLEANER AND MORE EFFICIENT

It is critical that climate concerns be embedded in national policy responses to COVID-19 as well as in the national fiscal stimulus packages being rolled out in response to the pandemic and consequent economic crisis.

As stimulus packages get implemented, governments around the world can deliver stronger, more inclusive and resilient growth by increasing the share of climate-friendly measures in those packages. Learning from the past decade, governments should focus on projects that can be scaled up quickly, avoiding transitional technologies that would need to be replaced in a few years.

The pandemic has also underlined the need and enhanced the interest in energy efficiency. The cooling industry needs to employ all the tools at its disposal to bring clean, efficient and sustainable technologies faster to the market, at scale. As the demand for cooling rises, end-users, both commercial and residential, are seeking better efficiency to save on costs, to their wallet and our environment, over the long term.

It is vital now to ensure that the cooling industry leads the global industrial response to an inclusive and green recovery, instead of simply continuing business as usual. People are impatient for a radical change and no one wants the same world back again. While adequately tackling climate change requires deep structural, economic, and societal shifts, the cooling industry has the unique ability to quickly reshape itself – hopefully fast enough to help prevent our physical world from being reshaped

Avipsa Mahapatra is Climate Campaign Lead, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), U.S.

Read the original article here.

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