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COP28 criticised for unsustainable cooling

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has called out the organisers of COP28 for using air conditioners with “climate wrecking” HFC and HCFC refrigerants.

The EIA criticism comes just days after more than 60 countries, including the host United Arab Emirates, signed the Global Cooling Pledge, committing signatories to reduce emissions from the cooling sector by 68 per cent by 2050.

According to the EIA, all 28 AC units examined in four of the 94 COP venue buildings were found to be using either R410A or R22. Further, the energy efficiency ratings of the units examined were one or two stars out of five, well below the best available technology on the global market.

Based on the estimated number of AC units in the four buildings (at least 124 units) and the proportion of R410A/R22 in the 28 units with accessible labelling, the EIA estimates that the AC units in the four buildings alone contain more than 300kg of R410A and more than 130kg of R22.

“While it’s welcome to see passive cooling strategies to keep participants cool between the various buildings, including shaded walkways, trees and vegetation and water features, the use of such inefficient systems with climate-damaging fluorinated gases is extremely disappointing,” says EIA UK Climate Campaigner Sophie Geoghegan.

“Year after year, the annual climate change conference is contributing to the climate emergency by the failure of the COP hosts to implement sustainable cooling in their procurement for the venue.

“The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and future UN climate summit host countries need to tackle cooling emissions at all future events.”

HCFCs such as R22 are being phased out under the Montreal Protocol, while HFCs such as R410A are being phased down through the Kigali Amendment to the Protocol, agreed in 2016. Although most parties have more time until they need to freeze their HFC consumption, the EIA says fast-acting measures are needed to control rapid growth in HFC demand.

“Based on the Global Cooling Pledge agreed at COP28 and the myriad of discussions throughout the conference on the urgent need for accessible, sustainable cooling, EIA urges the UNFCCC to request host countries to develop transparent procurement plans outlining the steps taken to ensure climate-friendly cooling and to report on related emissions from the meeting,” says EIA US Climate Policy Analyst Beth Porter.

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