Cooling developing countries: How income and climate drive air conditioning adoption

Policy brief Energy

  • Over 90% of people living in hot areas lack air conditioning. The expansion of air conditioning in these areas will bring comfort but increase greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and refrigerant leaks and could stress electric grids.
  • This study develops country-specific estimates of how air conditioning saturation relates to climate and household income and how it could grow over time.
  • The authors find that higher income households are beginning to adopt air conditioning in countries such as Pakistan and India, but air conditioning remains rare at all income levels in other countries such as Ghana and Sierra Leone.
  • The authors suggest that policy reforms are increasingly urgent in countries where adoption is accelerating. Reforms could include minimum efficiency standards, reduction of electricity price subsidies and rapid phase down of the most harmful refrigerants.
  • Further, hot countries should collect data about air conditioning ownership and household income regularly in order to better anticipate when ownership will begin to accelerate.