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Green is cool

The government’s launch of the India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) on March 8 is a bold response to addressing India’s future cooling needs while neutralising its impacts.

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/green-is-cool-india-economy-environment-5729927/

Why in news?

  • The government’s launch of the India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) on March 8, 2019 is a bold response to addressing India’s future cooling needs while neutralising its impacts.

Background

  • The rising global need for cooling amenities and the associated environmental and economic concerns have been matters of extensive study and debate recently. India — as the fastest growing and rapidly urbanising economy — is projected to have the strongest growth in cooling demand worldwide.
  • While India’s soaring demand in this sector is in line with the country’s developmental needs, it does portend significant environmental, social and economic concerns.

India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP)

  • The overarching goal of ICAP is to provide sustainable cooling and thermal comfort for all while securing environmental and socio-economic benefits for the society. This will also help in reducing both direct and indirect emissions.
  • The India Cooling Action seeks to –

(i) reduce cooling demand across sectors by 20% to 25% by 2037-38

(ii) reduce refrigerant demand by 25% to 30% by 2037-38

(iii) Reduce cooling energy requirements by 25% to 40% by 2037-38

(iv) recognize “cooling and related areas” as a thrust area of research under the national S&T Programme

(v) training and certification of 100,000 servicing sector technicians by 2022-23, synergizing with Skill India Mission.

  • The following benefits would accrue to society over and above the environmental benefits –

(i) Thermal comfort for all – provision for cooling for EWS and LIG housing

(ii) Sustainable cooling – low GHG emissions related to cooling

(iii) Doubling Farmers Income – better cold chain infrastructure – better value of products to farmers, less wastage of produce

(iv) Skilled workforce for better livelihoods and environmental protection

(v) Make in India – domestic manufacturing of air-conditioning and related cooling equipment’s

(vi) Robust R&D on alternative cooling technologies – to provide the push to innovation in a cooling sector

 Analyzing ICAP

  • ICAP most visibly is about enhancing access to cooling amenities, optimising demand and efficient cooling practices and technologies. However, there is far more to it than meets the eye.
  • At its core, ICAP is about improving the quality of life and productivity of the people of India, and achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — thus accelerating the country’s growth trajectory.
    • There is ample evidence to correlate access to cooling amenities and technologies with human health and productivity, and in extreme cases, even survival.
    • It is closely tied to achieving several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The need

  • India has one of the lowest access to such technologies and amenities across the world, far below the global average.
  • This is reflected in “low per-capita levels” of energy consumption for space cooling — 69 kWh against the world average of 272 kWh.
    • The cooling requirement in India, in tonnes of refrigeration (TR), is projected to grow around eight times by 2037-38.
    • The building sector shows the most significant growth in required TR, nearly 11 times as compared to 2017-18.
    • The cold-chain and refrigeration sectors grow around 4 times and transport air-conditioning grows around 5 times the 2017-18 levels.
  • The ICAP addresses the dilemma of how to meet the country’s growing social need in this respect without posing major economic and environmental consequences.
    • A large part of the cooling demand is met through refrigerant-based cooling. These refrigerants are regulated under the Montreal Protocol regime on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. India is a signatory.
    • In the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the Protocol, India and a few other developing countries had agreed to phase down hydrofluorocarbons — commonly used in air-conditioners — by 85% of their 2024-26 levels by 2047.
  • Conceived against the backdrop of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Kigali Amendment, the ICAP for the first time harmonises separate policy streams:
    • Energy consumption and refrigerant use.
    • This landmark policy document demonstrates unprecedented inter-ministerial and cross-sectoral collaboration in laying out actionable pathways and goals to achieve 25-40 per cent reduction in cooling energy requirements and 25-30 per cent reduction in refrigerant demand — as compared to business as usual — over the next 20 years.

Co-benefits

  • Thermal comfort and well-being: In the space cooling sector, which represents a dominant share of India’s current and future cooling needs, the underlying thrust is to enable thermal comfort and well-being for all citizens by providing affordable and reliable cooling options, maintaining reliable electricity grids, and enhancing climate resilience of buildings and homes.
    • The plan lays special emphasis on enabling thermal comfort for the economically-weaker sections through climate-appropriate designs of affordable housing, and low-cost interventions to achieve better thermal insulation (such as cool roofs). The benefits of the proposed actions extend to enhancing nationwide productivity, reducing heat-islands in urban areas, mitigating peak-load impacts and reducing the stress on the power systems — much of this would also free up capital for other developmental priorities.
  • Undue heat stresses: The thrust is on ensuring that the vulnerable populations, particularly children and the elderly, are not exposed to undue heat stresses.
    • To maximise the cooling load reduction and possible benefits for this sector, ICAP proposes an approach that first reduces the cooling energy demand through climate appropriate and energy efficient building design, then serves the demand through energy efficient appliances and finally, controls and optimises the demand through demand-side and user adaptation strategies, such as adaptive thermal comfort.
  • Cold chain sector: Within the cold chain sector, ICAP proposes development of an integrated cold chain infrastructure with the appropriate market linkages, supported by adequate training and up-skilling of farmers and professionals.
    • The co-benefits include economic well-being of farmers and reducing food losses thus strengthening food security and alleviating hunger-related issues.
  • Skill-building of the services sector: Driving skill-building of the services sector through training and certification is an important target identified by the plan.
    • This will address rampant operational inefficiencies and leakage of refrigerants — a significant source of GHG emissions.
    • It also presents an opportunity for providing increased employment, better livelihoods, and safer working practices for the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) sector.

Conclusion

  • ICAP’s emphasis on an innovative R&D ecosystem aims to drive the nation towards better utilisation of public-funded R&D efforts that solve pressing issues related to the environment — and quality of life.
  • The plan also positions India’s cooling challenge as an opportunity for the nation to demonstrate leadership in areas related to innovation.
  • It also supports the Make in India campaign through indigenous production of cooling equipment and refrigerants.
  • The benefits of ICAP could impact several SDGs — good health and well-being, decent work and economic growth, sustainable cities and communities, reduced inequalities, affordable and clean energy, responsible consumption and production, and climate action.
  • The onus is now on the various stakeholders to work collaboratively, with the right policy and market levers, to lead the country towards a cooling transformation that exemplifies sustainable and responsible cooling for all.

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