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5.5 billion tonnes of CO2 a year caused by HVAC, report claims

The ‘Wreaking HVAC on our planet’ report has been published, highlighting the environmental impact of the global heating, ventilation and air conditioning industry – suggesting the sector is a bigger producer of CO2 emissions than all passenger vehicles, flights, and every country except China.

The report estimates that HVAC (used only for comfort) produces 5.5 gigatonnes of CO2 each year (5,500,000,000 tonnes), or 15% of global energy related emissions. It highlights the cyclical problem of extreme temperatures and weather events increasing HVAC demand, which then furthers climate change, leading to further consumption. Indeed, air conditioning energy use is expected to triple by 2050.

“The world is getting hotter, but the technology needed to keep us comfortable is a major contributor to climate change,” said Sam Ringwaldt, report author and Conry Tech CEO/co-founder. “As more of the world experiences 40°C+ days, air conditioning will cease to be a luxury in these regions, it will become a necessity for human health, wellbeing, and survival. If we can’t live without HVAC, we need to find better ways to live with it and not allow it to wreak havoc on our planet.”

The report was published by Conry Tech, an Australian climate tech start-up on a mission to reinvent HVAC and drastically reduce its emissions (by 40%). The report aims to quantify the impact of this largely ignored industry and shine a light on the problem for people not in the industry. The authors also want to encourage the uptake of more sustainable solutions such as heat pumps and efficient AC. Key findings in the report include:

• The temperature and humidity controls in our homes and commercial buildings produce 5,500,000,000 tonnes of CO2 every year. This excludes the refrigeration of food/medicine, or industrial heating/cooling processes

• This is more than all the world’s passenger vehicles and every individual country on the planet other than China

• The energy use of global air conditioning units is expected to triple by 2050

• To reduce the global impact of HVAC, buildings need to be 100% electrified. More energy efficient heating and cooling solutions must be installed as nations transition to renewable energy. Emerging economies must have access to modern, energy efficient HVAC units

“The HVAC sector creates more greenhouse gases than all the passenger vehicles on the planet combined,” continued Ringwaldt. “Far more than other well-known problematic sectors such as mining, concrete production, and aviation. Not only is the HVAC industry a major polluter, but its extreme consumption of electricity is also delaying the global transition to renewable energy by putting extra pressure on the grid. Each year, air-conditioning alone consumes twice as much energy as all the solar energy generated worldwide.

“Heat pumps are a vital technology for reducing heating emissions, but the energy use of air-conditioning is projected to triple by 2050 – a fact brought into sharp focus by 2023’s record temperatures and soaring demand for cooling technologies.

31 August 2023

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