heating and cooling of a city visual concept

Report | 2021

Beating the Heat: A Sustainable Cooling Handbook for Cities

By Iain CampbellSneha SacharJulia MeiselRushad NanavattyRadhika LalitMia Reback

With growing populations and rapid urbanization, global warming impacts are felt most acutely in cities. Research shows that the world’s cities are heating up at twice the global average rate due to the urban heat island effect. Hotter cities could be catastrophic for public health and productivity, and the demand for cooling solutions is increasing. The energy requirements for space cooling are predicted to triple from 2016 to 2050 as millions of new households acquire air conditioners in the coming decades.

The effects of extreme heat are felt most by the poor who typically live in a city’s hottest neighborhoods and are the least likely to be able to afford or access air-conditioned spaces. Increased demand for space cooling could also drastically increase greenhouse gas emissions. Implementing a cohesive set of sustainable urban cooling interventions, on the other hand, can deliver far-reaching benefits. It can improve health and productivity, reduce energy requirements, lower emissions, and generate economic benefits. City officials working to make their cities cooler are faced with a wide range of solutions—the challenge is where to start.

Beating the Heat: A Sustainable Cooling Handbook for Cities, published by the United Nations Environment Programme in partnership with RMI, serves as an encyclopedia of sustainable urban cooling solutions—from city-wide scale down to the neighborhood, building, or household scale. The handbook focuses on a whole-system approach to cooling and guides cities on when, where, and how to apply these solutions for maximum benefit. Eighty supporting case studies and examples demonstrate the effectiveness of the strategies and can help cities find an approach best suited to their unique contexts. The guidance in this handbook should help elected officials, policymakers, planners, developers, and communities make progress towards sustainable and equitable urban cooling, while also cutting emissions and increasing resilience.

A Whole-Systems Approach Towards Sustainable Urban CoolingA Whole-Systems Approach Towards Sustainable Urban Cooling

Click to download the Beating the Heat: A Sustainable Cooling Handbook for Cities here, or click the download button above.