Credit: German Red Cross

Planning, education, and data insights will help tackle the deadly effects of global heating, Ashden's search for the world’s best sustainable cooling solutions has shown.

Four leading innovators have been longlisted for the Ashden Cool Cities Award, funded by the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Programme (K-CEP). Their work is preparing communities around the world for the effects of rising heat. The winner of the prize will be announced in June. 

But despite these outstanding efforts the world is not ready for the reality of a hotter planet, Ashden’s experts have warned. The last five years were the warmest on record, but carbon emissions continue to grow – rising by 0.6% from 2018 to 2019.    

Ashden CEO Harriet Lamb said: “The climate emergency means higher temperatures are now a fact of life – and then people whack up the air conditioning, completing a vicious circle. The world must wake up to this new reality and urgently invest in sustainable solutions such as those applying for an Ashden award.  We cannot sit back and wait for the next lethal heatwave to arrive – we need action now.”

Air conditioning is becoming more popular around the world – but it remains unaffordable for billions of people, and the energy it uses is a significant driver of global heating. Air conditioning also generates extremely damaging greenhouse gases. Left unchecked, emissions from air conditioning could account for nearly 20 percent of climate pollution by 2050. This award, first launched in 2019, seeks to put the spotlight on cooling as an under-appreciated issue. Last year the Colombian city of Medellin won for an innovative project using planting to reduce temperatures.  

Alternatives are revealed in the work of four very different longlisted organisations in Vietnam, India and Egypt. They include using climate data to trigger early funding for heatwave responses and training the next generation of architects in sustainable cooling techniques.

Harriet Lamb said: “Higher temperatures will not affect everyone equally – people living in poverty and those who work outdoors are among those most at risk, despite generally living lower-carbon lives. So sustainable cooling for all is a vital part of a fair transition to a low-carbon world. The four longlisted organisations this year are all very different puzzle pieces of the wider cooling picture – making our judges’ job very difficult.” 

Dan Hamza-Goodacre, Executive Director of K-CEP, said: “Progress in reducing carbon emissions needs rapidly scaling up if humanity is to avert the worst impacts of climate change. Emissions from cooling would alone blow the global carbon budget for 1.5 degrees. So I’m heartened to see Ashden identify these promising solutions that can make efficient, climate-friendly cooling more accessible for people across the world, especially those most vulnerable from the impacts of high and rising temperatures.”  

Ashden Cool Cities Award Longlist 

The German Red Cross and Vietnam Red Cross, Vietnam

A joint German Red Cross and Vietnam Red Cross project uses weather forecast data to trigger pre-arranged funding and action to help people cope with upcoming heatwaves, before the emergency takes place. This allows for a better response, delivered through crisis centres supporting slum residents and outdoor workers.

Fairconditioning, India

India’s building sector is booming. The Fairconditioning project by cBalance Solutions works to ensure the country’s university architecture courses promote cutting-edge sustainable design and cooling methods – challenging what they call ‘air-conditioning-as-default’ thinking.

Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan, India

The Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan includes a comprehensive range of measures to keep city residents safe. The plan helps the city map high-risk areas, reach vulnerable people with warnings and advice, distribute water and co-ordinate healthcare. 

ECOnsult, Egypt

Agricultural workers face a huge threat from higher temperatures. Egyptian architecture firm ECOnsult have created a green village in the desert for farm labourers, using heat-absorbing materials and cooling techniques such as heat-reflecting roofs to keep workers safe.