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COP26: UK pledges of millions for cooling in Africa, Asia, Latin America

11 November 2021 Cristina Brooks

The UK in the final days of COP26 offered two new pots of funding to slash emissions from operating buildings, which are responsible for 28% of global CO2 emissions, as well as refrigeration.

The UK's Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy pledged $36.87 million (£27.5 million) in new funding to decarbonize buildings in selected cities across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

These included the capital cities of Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mexico, Colombia, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

The cash is being poured into the UK's new Urban Climate Action program, launched on 11 November during the climate summit in Glasgow, and is expected to coincide with a Paris-Agreement-aligned global deal on heating.

In a second buildings-related move, the UK promised £12 million ($16 million) to develop the first center of excellence for rural cooling and cold chain technology, as well as food refrigeration assistance, in Africa. The funds will be disbursed to the existing UN-led group, Cool Coalition. The Coalition aims to reduce the climate impact of cooling and refrigerants, and the US has recently made similar efforts.

Demand for cooling, in particular in developing nations, is set to rise. "Cooling already accounts for more than 7% of total GHG emissions. With more than 13 new cooling devices deployed per second, cooling and refrigeration are the fastest-growing source of GHG emissions in the world," Toby Peters, a professor in engineering and cold economy at the University of Birmingham told Net-Zero Business Daily.

The UK last month revealed its own heating strategy, which is needed to get the country's building stock to net zero by 2050. In it, the UK pledged a massive roll-out of heat pumps and lower-carbon boilers, despite having struggled to attract suppliers for its green building programs over the years.

The UK also urged more cities around the world to issue net-zero pledges. Those that already have committed include London (2030), Los Angeles (2035), New York (2050), and Seoul (2050). So far, 704 cities have pledged to reach net-zero as part of the Cities Race to Zero campaign, the group of mayors leading the campaign said in April.

Cooling needs of emerging economies

One reason reducing emissions from heating and cooling buildings is challenging is because many different technologies may be required, depending on the buildings involved.

"Heating technologies that directly use fossil fuels account for more than half of global sales, and the need for new low-carbon products to meet a variety of building environments hinders their rapid deployment," according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

A rise in the global average temperature will contribute to added demand for cooling, further exacerbating the challenge, said the IEA.

What is more, the area covered by buildings is set to grow, and over 70% of that growth will occur in developing countries with growing populations, the IEA said.

However, global demand for cooling and heating per square meter of buildings waned in the developed world as more stringent building energy codes came into force, for example in Europe, Japan, and the US.

Adaptation funding still "insufficient"

In the more formal COP26 process, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been collecting funds for developing states through the Adaptation Fund and other UN-backed funding vehicles.

The funding goes first and foremost to helping least developed countries and small island states adapt to the impact of climate change.

Funds come from government and private donors, plus the Clean Development Mechanism that finances climate change adaptation projects in developing countries signing up to the Kyoto Protocol, the predecessor to the Paris Agreement.

On 11 November in a draft decision on long-term climate finance, the COP welcomed pledges made to the Adaptation Fund of $351.6 million and the Least Developed Countries Fund of $431 million.

For example, the EU's executive, the European Commission (EC) on 9 November announced it would contribute €100 million to the Adaptation Fund. The €100 million contribution, which will come from the EU budget, is "by far the biggest pledge for the Adaptation Fund made by donors at COP26," according to the EC.

The Adaptation Fund has so far given $485.9 million to 121 projects, including projects that strengthen agricultural and water resilience in the face of climate change and coastal flooding.

The board of the fund approved adaptation projects in Indonesia, Tanzania, Syria, and Zimbabwe in April.

But despite this and adaptation funding efforts by development banks, the UN Economic Commission for Africa found a gap of about 80% between Africa's climate adaptation needs and expenditure in a 2017 study.

Likewise, in a draft text published 11 November the COP noted with "serious concern" that climate finance in a group of vehicles that includes the Adaptation Fund was "insufficient to respond to worsening climate change impacts in developing country parties."

It also observed with "concern" a gap in annual $100 billion set to come from the financing vehicles, and the lack of private sector finance mobilized towards this.

Investors have said that they are looking for partnerships and innovation to cope with percieived risks to investments in places they are not used to investing.

Posted 11 November 2021 by Cristina Brooks, Senior Journalist, Climate and Sustainability

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