Bringing sustainable cooling in from the cold at the UN CoP28 climate summit in Dubai

Sustainable cooling has received limited attention at the annual meetings under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, despite being a key tool for both climate mitigation and adaptation.

The 28th Conference of the Parties (CoP28) from 30 November to 12 December in Dubai aims to rectify this situation, with host UAE including cooling as one of its presidential priorities, dubbing the event ‘the Cooling CoP’.

Cooling lies at the nexus of the Paris Agreement, the Montreal Protocol and the UN Sustainable Development Goals and meeting rising demand for cooling in a way that does not further warm the world is critical for the success of all three frameworks.

So far in 2023, the months of June, July, August, September and October have been the hottest on record, with increasingly frequent and severe extreme heat events and heatwaves.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), up to 76 per cent of the global population could be exposed to deadly heat stress by 2100.

Access to cooling is fundamental to quality of life for comfort, productivity, health and cold chains for food and medicine. But as global temperatures rise, the demand for cooling increases – the demand for air-conditioning and refrigeration is expected to triple by 2050.

Emissions from cooling account for seven per cent of total global emissions and these are two-fold:

  • direct emissions from the refrigerant gas inside cooling equipment – often climate-damaging fluorinated gases with global warming potentials (GWP) hundreds to thousands of times greater than CO2. Direct emissions contribute to about one-third of total cooling sector emissions
  • indirect emissions from the energy used to power cooling equipment. A tripling of cooling demand by 2050 would consume as much electricity as all of China and India today.


Energy-efficient natural refrigerant cooling technology exists, but the market continues to be dominated by climate-damaging hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and their predecessors, ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).

These fluorinated refrigerant gases are Short Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs) that have a significant warming impact over the short-term. Therefore, eliminating their use can have an almost immediate effect on warming, bending the climate curve and securing valuable time in the race against climate catastrophe.

The IPCC states that fluorinated gas emissions need to be reduced 85 per cent by 2050 to limit warming to 1.5°C.

As developing countries begin their HFC phase-down under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, there is a unique opportunity to accelerate the shift and leapfrog to natural refrigerants, thus avoiding building up banks of HFCs which will eventually leak into the atmosphere. For more information on available energy efficient, natural refrigerant technology solutions visit our online database cool technologies or our product list report.

Recognising that action on sustainable cooling can avoid 78 billion tonnes CO2e by 2050, countries are being invited to join the Global Climate Pledge to be launched on 5 December (Energy Day) at CoP28. The pledge calls on signatories to commit to reduce cooling-related emissions across all sectors by at least 68 per cent from 2022 levels by 2050.

Governments which have not already done so must commit to ratifying the Kigali Amendment, commit to publishing a national cooling action plan or equivalent by 2026, reflect cooling actions in their Nationally Determined Contributions and support the deployment of highly energy-efficient air-conditioners, among other measures.

The pledge is a crucial step in gaining support for collective accelerated action on sustainable cooling and EIA urges all governments to join.

The pledge will require robust and transparent monitoring and reporting to ensure action is taken and progress made. Furthermore, countries must beware of false F-gas solutions, including HFOs which are low GWP but are also classified as PFAS, or ‘forever chemicals’, with associated climate, environmental and possible human health impacts from their production and breakdown.

Pledge signees should instead transition directly to energy-efficient natural refrigerant equipment and systems.

The pivotal role of sustainable cooling in the climate conversation will also be highlighted at various side events throughout CoP28, including at the dedicated Ozone to Cool Zone Pavilion, where EIA will be organising two side events on 8 December and 9 December.

Canisters of HFC-410A and HCFC-22 at CoP27 (c) EIA

Cooling will also figure at CoP28 in a much more tangible way. With temperatures expected to be around 30°C, keeping participants and food cool will be a key challenge for the host country. EIA has so far been unable to gather clear information on which refrigerants will be in use in air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment at the venue.

At past CoPs in Glasgow and Sharm El Sheikh, EIA has uncovered the use of climate-damaging refrigerants in cooling systems, despite low-GWP alternatives being available on the market.

While it is the CoP host’s responsibility to procure venue and services for the event, this ongoing sustainability issue should be addressed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – with specific cooling procurement practices requiring energy-efficient natural refrigerants where possible.