Around 34 million people in the country might lose their jobs because of heat stress and subsequent decline in productivity
Investment opportunities in India’s cooling sector through less carbon-intensive technologies could add up to $1.6 trillion (around Rs 1.29 crore), according to a new report released by the World Bank Group November 30, 2022.
The report further informed that these investment opportunities across three different sectors — construction, cold chains and refrigerants — have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions significantly and also create nearly 3.7 million jobs.
The report estimated that around 34 million people in the country might lose their jobs because of heat stress and subsequent decline in productivity.
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“The report suggests a sustainable roadmap for cooling that has the potential to reduce 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually by 2040,” said Auguste Tano Kouame, the World Bank’s country director in India.
The world is already on a path where there would be many more intense heatwaves like the one India witnessed in 2022, he said.
“We need to ensure that the country’s cooling plans do not cause more GHG emissions, leading to greater warming,” he added.
The report analysed the India Cooling Action Plan launched in 2019 and came up with suggestions for prioritising the government’s investment opportunities in the cooling sector.
The main objective of India’s national strategy for cooling is to reduce country-wide demand for cooling by 25 per cent by 2037-2038.
Sustainable space cooling solutions may reduce annual GHG emissions by 213 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2040.
This can be achieved by increasing the efficiency of cooling technologies — air conditioners, ceiling fans and chillers — which can save 30 per cent energy by 2037-38.
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Passive cooling strategies for buildings in cities can reduce energy usage by 20-30 per cent by 2038. A drop in the temperature of a building by one degree Celsius could lower peak electricity demand for cooling by two-four per cent.
One of the suggestions that the report makes is with regard to the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), the Government of India’s affordable housing programme for the poor. The scheme does not include thermal comfort as one of its aspects.
The report suggests including thermal comfort through passive cooling technologies in these households. This could benefit over 11 million urban households and 29 million households in rural areas that the government wants to construct.
This would also ensure that the people most affected by rising temperatures are not disproportionately affected.
Another recommendation for space cooling is a national policy on district cooling systems (DCS). DCS are centralised cooling techniques for clusters of buildings instead of individual buildings, which is much more efficient.
“We suggest that district cooling should be be made mandatory for real estate complexes that are of high density,” said Abhas K Jha, practice manager, Climate and Disaster Risk Management, South Asia.
This can be done by providing cooling as a service in these complexes. Cooling as a service has become quite common in the west, added Jha who is also an author of the report.
DCS generate chilled water in a central plant which can then be distributed to multiple buildings via underground insulated pipes.
In India’s context, DCS can consume 20-30 per cent less power than the most efficient conventional cooling solutions, noted the report. Savings can increase to 60-80 per cent compared to average three-star air conditioners.
The report highlighted the part private investments can play in large-scale cooling solutions. Private investments in India’s solar energy boom are a perfect example of how this can be carried out, Jha highlighted.
Energy savings can also come from improving the efficiencies of current air conditioners being used in India and making it at par with the rest of the world, according to Jha.
The report does not focus on air conditioning because only 40 per cent of Indians will have air conditioning by 2040 — which is currently around eight per cent — and the rest for whom passive cooling technologies have to be the focus, said Jha.
Apart from this, the report also made recommendations for cold chain and refrigeration sectors, especially in the transportation of food.
Here the report suggests the use of concessional finance from Multilateral Development Banks like the World Bank for investments in strategies to plug the gaps in the cold chain distribution networks.
Such investments can help reduce food loss by about 76 per cent and decrease carbon emissions by 16 per cent.
On the phase-out of refrigerants not in line with the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, such as hydrochlorofluorocarbons which deplete the ozone layer, the report suggests reducing the leakage of such refrigerants through — improved servicing, maintenance and disposal of old equipment along with a shift to alternative options which emit less carbon.
Currently, 35 per cent of carbon emissions from these refrigerants come from the leakage, according to Jha. Such a step can create 2 million jobs for technicians over the next 20 years and reduce the demand for refrigerants by 31 per cent in the same period.
Kouame highlighted that this was an opportunity for India to become the global headquarters for green cooling technologies and pragmatic policies in this regard were needed, which the current report provides.
If the recommendations are taken well, they will help low and middle-income groups become more resilient to the ongoing and future heat stress. Heat stress is set to increase drastically in a world on its way to two-three degree rise in temperatures.
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