Pathways to sustainable cooling across Africa – AFRICOOLING
Air conditioning (AC) has emerged in the 1950s United States as an effective way to cope with heat stress. It has since then massively spread across North America, Japan and urban China, but very little in the developing world. Despite providing important benefits, it generates greenhouse gas emissions by using electricity and leaking hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), thereby adding a dangerous positive feedback loop into the climate system. Moreover, it is suspected to have adverse effects on health (by decreasing physical activity) and diverting resources away from traditional heat-proof habitat.
The global expansion of AC is expected to take a new, dramatic turn with the combination of global warming, income rise and urbanization. This confluence of factors is expected to be most critical in African countries, were AC ownership rates are currently below 1%. Despite the importance of the challenge, AC is virtually unstudied in African contexts. There is thus an urgent need to fill this gap and provide policy recommendations for sustainable cooling in Africa. The AFRICOOLING project is committed to seizing this timely research opportunity. To do so, it will take an integrated demand- supply-policy approach to cooling and explore blind spots in it in three inter-related work packages (WP).
On the demand side, research into the adoption of cooling technologies has focused on temperature and income as the main determinants. A broader set of factors needs to be investigated, including health, behaviors, attitudes, new electricity pricing schemes, and, crucially, dynamic effects such as heat waves. To address this gap, WP1 will consist in conducting comprehensive household surveys (N=400 in each) in Mombasa and Mwingi in Kenya and Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire. The same households will be surveyed every year so as to build a 4-year dataset fit for capturing a broad range of effects. The team will benefit from field support from the University of Nairobi, Institut Polytechnique Houphouët-Boigny (INP-HB) and Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD).
On the supply side, research has focused on long-term price and efficiency adjustments in AC retail in the United States. In an attempt to generate broader insights, the coordinator has started assembling a high-frequency database of cooling products in 13 African countries in June 2019. E-commerce data are collected for 13,000 cooling products (AC, fans, refrigerators) and a control group of other products (smartphone, rice, etc.) on a daily basis. In WP2, this work will be continued so as to provide 6 years of data by the end of the project. In addition, on-site visits will be conducted in Kenyan and Ivorian retail stores and at street corner merchants to complement the online data with offline ones.
On the policy side, research has documented very few conventional policies such as energy efficiency labels for AC across Africa. Meanwhile, non-conventional policies such as import bans on second- hand appliances have been documented in Ghana. Yet more policies are supposed to be adopted under the international framework of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, imposing HFC phase-downs. In WP3, a more systematic analysis of African cooling policies will be conducted and complemented with interviews with stakeholders in the Kigali Amendment to identify the key factors of policy effectiveness at both the global and domestic levels.
The results from the different WPs will be integrated into a final WP generating contrasted cooling pathways and making policy recommendations for promoting the more sustainable ones. The project will gather an interdisciplinary team of 11 highly qualified experts from the coordinator’s close circle and beyond, and allow him to hire a PhD student and a three-year postdoc. Following the highest ethics standards, it will produce extensive, novel and highly valuable datasets that will be made broadly accessible.