Sickening, dizzying heat rots their food and spoils their medicines. It strikes in fields and factories, homes and hospitals. And as global temperatures climb, so the threat grows. The worst off are those in greatest danger.
The answer is fair cooling – affordable, accessible cooling solutions that do not worsen the climate crisis, and are developed with the communities at greatest risk. Around the globe innovators are developing solar-powered refrigeration, using trees and streams to lower temperatures in crowded cities, and making better use of cool materials and ventilation when designing buildings.
Alternatives such as air conditioning are out of reach for many, and create emissions that fuel the climate emergency. Fair cooling is the future – but it isn’t spreading fast enough. That’s why Ashden, K-CEP and ClimateWorks Foundation launched the Fair Cooling Fund, an ambitious project scaling up the impact of frontline fair cooling solutions.
In 2020 and 2021 we are helping seven organisations from the worlds of business and academia co-develop new initiatives that will widen access to cooling, and giving them grants to turn their plans into reality. While their work stretches across Asia, Africa and Latin America, they are united by an ambition to deliver powerful social impact and address inequality.
This piece first appeared at Civil Society News In a world of soaring temperatures, 2.2 billion people live without access to clean and efficient cooling. …
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In a world of rising temperatures, many millions of farmers without access to cold storage face an uncertain future. Locked out of the supply chains that can guarantee a secure income, one bad season can spell disaster.
Ecozen offers portable solar-powered cold storage rooms – powered by cutting-edge digital technology – that keep produce fresh, boosting sales and prices. Now, through the Fair Cooling Fund, India’s Ecozen is piloting a smaller version of its Ecofrost storage unit. This will bring cooling within reach of more low-income farmers in remote areas.
But new technology alone will not create stable, resilient futures. Ecozen is also offering farmers affordable finance and connecting them with buyers and supply chains. Through a package of products and services, it aims to work in partnership with marginalised rural communities.
In India’s crowded low-income neighbourhoods, homes often become dangerously hot. Women, more likely to spend time indoors, are at particular risk. In the cities of Pune and Bangalore, consultancy cBalance is working with women in these neighbourhoods to understand how they are affected by heat stress – and to install the practical low-carbon solutions that can address the challenge.
Throught the Fair Cooling Fund, the organisation is piloting a range of upgrades to people’s homes, from new roofs to specially planted vegetation and even barriers made of recycled plastic bottles. cBalance is also exploring the business models that could bring these solutions within reach of even the worst-off families.
Alongside local NGO partners, cBalance is focused on empowering the women it works with – not imposing ‘top down’ solutions. The organisation will use the insights from its Fair Cooling Fund work to spark change among academics, politicians and the private sector, elevating the voices and experiences of the women most affected by this problem.
Small-scale dairy farmers in the Indian state of Maharashtra often go without the means to chill and store their milk. With no chance of selling to big cities or in faraway markets, their incomes are limited and life is more precarious.
Promethean Power Systems offer sustainable technology that brings cooling within reach of more milk producers. Through the Fair Cooling Fund, they have developed a more compact and portable unit for use in more remote areas – those most likely to be excluded from supply chains. Villagers rent access to the units, and Promethean offer affordable credit and manage milk collection too.
Women are at the heart of dairy processing in the region, and many are stepping forward to manage milk collection and processing in their communities. Promethean is working with local NGO Swayam Shakshan Prayog to maximise the social impact of its work.
Rising heat is making homes in Rwanda uncomfortable and even dangerous, particularly those in low-income neighbourhoods. Through the Fair Cooling Fund, architecture firm MASS Design is piloting solutions and using creative storytelling to inspire change.
In the capital Kigali, MASS is trialling new approaches to upgrading homes and tackling high indoor temperatures. In Rwanda many people build their own homes, or employ their neighbours to do so, which means raising public awareness of new approaches is crucial. So MASS are capturing their work on film, and using it to inform and inspire the communities that will benefit most.
The organisation’s links with government ministries will support this process, and share the experiences of ordinary people with those in power. This project relies on understanding the challenges and aspiration of marginalised communities – and delivering solutions that match these needs.
Extreme heat can leave families in Egypt struggling to work, study, rest and sleep. As a sustainability partner in an ambitious national infrastructure project, Egyptian architecture firm ECOnsult can tackle this issue by influence building design in towns and villages across the country.
Through the Fair Cooling Fund, ECOnsult is creating tools and resources promoting sustainable, affordable approaches that will help tackle heat stress and other environmental challenges. Air conditioning is out of reach for many – but shading, ventilation and smart material choices can dramatically lower indoor temperatures.
ECOnsult’s approach draws on holistic thinking, traditional knowledge and the often-ignored views and experiences of marginalised people, such as women and low-income communities. These groups are most at risk from heat stress – but rarely have a say in the design of their homes.
Medellin’s Green Corridors project is a world-leading example of urban greening as a defence against heat stress. Vegetation planted along roads and waterways in the Colombian city has dramatically reduced temperatures, created job and training opportunities and boosted urban biodiversity.
The city’s transformed public spaces bring benefits to everyone – from a 4.5 Degrees Celsius fall in temperatures to improved air quality.
The team behind this work want to see it repeated in other cities, in Colombia and beyond. Through the Fair Cooling Fund, they are documenting how this outstanding work was done – and the many benefits it has brought local people. They will also use their funding to reach out to city authorities and others who might help green corridors flourish elsewhere.
Refrigeration could be a game-changer for small businesses in rural Ghana. PEG Africa are an established supplier of solar systems powering lights, televisions and other appliances in the region. Now, with the help of the Fair Cooling Fund, they are piloting the sale of solar-power fridges and freezers to their customers.
Those customers include women in lakeside communities who make a living processing fish. Storing their catch brings huge challenges – buying blocks of ice is hugely expensive, while smoking the fish draws a lower price and causes deforestation and air pollution.
New clean technology – backed by affordable payment plans – could boost daily incomes and raise living standards. Through the fund, PEG are deepening their understanding of what customers want, making sure they offer the right product at the right price.
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