VEIC Author
Becky Schaaf
Partners & Clients
ClimateWorks Foundation
Energy Solutions
Metropolitan Area Planning Council (Boston)

Rising temperatures and extended heat waves related to climate change contribute to a cooling conundrum: keeping ourselves cool is making our world warmer, driving both the demand for cooling and the climate crisis even further. Yet increased access to cooling is a growing public health and equity priority to protect vulnerable communities from heat-related illness.

In the northwestern U.S. alone, the summer of 2021 saw approximately 600 heat-related deaths during an extended heat wave. Many vulnerable communities live in cool and temperate parts of the U.S. unaccustomed to dealing with extreme heat. In these regions, accounting for increases in cooling demand and expanding access to affordable, clean cooling are key complements to decarbonizing heating in the clean energy transition.

Decarbonizing space heating through the deployment of electric heat pumps is simultaneously an opportunity to expand access to efficient cooling systems.

Presented at the 2022 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, this paper explores decarbonization policies that reduce both heating and cooling emissions and embrace expanding access to cooling as a concomitant policy goal.

It shows how to support heat pump deployment in ways that prioritize vulnerable populations and promote racial justice, integrating increased cooling demand into energy affordability programs, and managing grid impacts from rising demand for cooling.

Drawing on original research, input from leaders in climate equity and building decarbonization, and lessons from community-led initiatives, the study identifies pathways to zero emission cooling for all.

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