In the past two weeks, global average temperatures have reached new highs, and over the past year, there have been record-breaking heatwaves in Iran, China, Mexico, North Africa, and many other regions. These extreme temperatures are putting lives at risk, especially for those living without access to cooling solutions.

In the absence of reliable electricity to power cooling devices, or incomes sufficient to afford them, human health and safety is in danger due to heat stress. Economic activities and critical public services are also jeopardized by a lack of cooling, particularly in rural areas where cold chains are needed for food and medicines. Hence why sustainable cooling is a pressing development and climate change adaptation challenge.

However, failure to adapt with sustainable solutions also poses long-term challenges to climate change mitigation efforts. Accounting for more than 7 precent of global emissions already, serving the unmet cooling needs of billions of people with inefficient solutions could cause up to a five-time increase in energy use for cooling and slow progress on global decarbonization efforts.

SEforALL’s Chilling Prospects research series uses data to shine a light on the state of cooling access gaps for vulnerable populations. The 2023 analysis assesses cooling access risks across 77 countries where vulnerable populations live and provides analysis based on factors of vulnerability, tracking progress year over year with the best available data as they become available.

The Chilling Prospects 2023 analysis finds that 1.12 billion people among the rural and urban poor are considered to be at high risk due to a lack of access to cooling, a decrease of approximately 20.4 million people compared to 2022. Driving the change is decreases in the rural poor population in Asia and the Middle East, including significant reductions in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan coupled with slow but steady declines in the urban poor population at risk in this region. In the assessed African countries, there is continued growth of the rural poor population due in part to slower than needed progress on electricity access and economic constraints in an inflationary environment.

The data show that the most acute cooling access gaps are in poor rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa and in the growing cities in high-temperature regions of the Global South. In the run-up to COP 28, this highlights the needs for new commitments towards pro-poor cooling innovation, integrating cooling with rural electrification planning, and harnessing the power of passive and nature-based cooling solutions for vulnerable urban dwellers.

Global Access to Cooling Risk Spectrum 
  High Risk Medium Risk Low Risk
  • No access to electricity
  • Income below poverty line
  • Poor ventilation and construction
  • No access to refrigeration for food
  • Farmers lack access to cold chains
  • Vaccines exposed to high temperatures
  • Access to electricity
  • Lower income levels
  • Ability to run a fan, buildings constructed to older standards
  • Food is refrigerated
  • Farmers only have access to intermittently reliable cold chains
  • Vaccines may have exposure to occasional high temperatures
  • Full and reliable electricity
  • Middle income and higher
  • Well-built homes can include insulation, passive design, air-conditioning
  • Food is refrigerated reliably
  • Farmers’ goods and vaccines have well-controlled cold chains


The 1.12 billion people at high risk is composed of an estimated 596 million women and 525 million men, with women making up approximately 52 percent of the population at high risk in rural areas and 54 percent in urban areas respectively.

A lack of granular gender-disaggregated data poses serious difficulties to quantifying the cooling needs of women and men. Governments, philanthropies, private sector solution providers and development financiers can begin with systematic collection of gender-disaggregated data and use it to guide gender-responsive policy and investment.

Chilling Prospects: Access to cooling gap, by income group (2020-2023)



In the Critical 9 countries* for access to cooling, there are 772.2 million people at high risk due to a lack of access to cooling. This includes 183.8 million people among the rural poor and 588.4 million people among the urban poor. By proportion of the population, risk is most significant in the three African countries among the Critical 9, with Mozambique having 83 percent of its total population at high risk, followed by Nigeria (53 percent) and Sudan (44 percent).

Change in India, which has the largest number of people at high and medium risk, is likely the most significant dynamic observed overall, with rural poor and urban poor populations declining by 16.9 million people and 4.2 million people respectively. At the same time, India’s lower-middle-income population at medium risk has grown by an additional 21.8 million people, with the shift likely a reflection of progress in rural electricity access and economic resilience, with a levelling off of poverty in 2021-22 following an increase at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chilling Prospects: Access to cooling gap, by income group (2020-2023)



The analysis also found 2.9 billion lower-middle-income people, inclusive of 1.39 billion women and 1.53 billion men, are at medium risk of lack of access to cooling, particularly affordable clean and efficient cooling. This is an increase of approximately 11 million people, driven primarily by increases in South Asia (India, Bangladesh, Pakistan), Nigeria and Yemen. Overall, this figure has risen 7.1 percent between 2019 and 2023.

This data points to the growing risks to energy systems and emissions posed by increased demand for cooling. It must be met with strong policy commitments from national governments on codes, standards and national cooling action plans that deliver sustainable cooling for all.

Released in conjunction with the Clean Energy Ministerial and Mission Innovation meetings in Goa, India, and amid a coordinated effort to advance sustainable cooling progress ahead of COP 28, this year’s Chilling Prospects data underpins a call to action for the policy, investment, and support needed to deliver equitable access to cooling for those most vulnerable to the growing impacts of a warming world.

Explore the Chilling Prospects 2023 findings here.

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