Freezing in the tropics: Asean’s air-con conundrum

The inaugural Asean Cooling Summit convened for the first time a diverse group of leaders from business, government, civic society and academia to discuss solutions for sustainable cooling in Southeast Asia. Growing demand for air conditioning in the world’s emerging economies—such as those in the Southeast Asia region—could spur a 64 per cent increase in household energy use and produce 23.1 million tonnes of carbon emissions by 2040. Furthermore, technology used in conventional cooling systems in air conditioners and refrigerators poses a challenge. They use potent greenhouse gases such as hydrofluorocarbons that have high global warming potential. Moving away from the use of these gases is a key component of the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which commits signatory countries to a timetable to replace climate damaging refrigerants with sustainable alternatives. The Summit explored cooling in the context of sustainable development and identified solutions to increase the adoption of energy-efficient technology, remove financial barriers, and raise awareness of the critical need for climate-friendly cooling systems. A comprehensive new white paper, Freezing in the tropics: Asean’s air-con conundrum, commissioned by the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program (K-CEP) and produced by Eco-Business released during the Summit revealed the need to sound the alarm about the impact of cooling on the environment in Southeast Asia. There was little awareness of the necessity of energy-efficient cooling to meet national emission reduction targets, though one cause for hope was the widespread sentiment that buildings are sometimes cooled to excess. The whitepaper also found that potential energy savings accrued in a year from Asean countries by switching to energy-efficient devices would be equivalent to the annual output of 50 coal-powered plants.