About 1.1 billion people in Asia, Africa and Latin America – 470 million in rural areas and 630 million slum dwellers in cities – were at risk among the world’s 7.6 billion people, it said.
“Cooling becomes more and more important” with climate change, Rachel Kyte, head of the group and special representative for the U.N. Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, told Reuters.
In a survey of 52 countries, those most at risk included India, China, Mozambique, Sudan, Nigeria, Brazil, Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh, it said.
“We have to provide cooling in a super-efficient way,” Kyte said. Companies could find big markets, for instance by developing low-cost, high-efficiency air conditioners to sell to growing middle classes in tropical countries.
And simpler solutions, such as painting roofs white to reflect sunlight or redesigning buildings to allow heat to escape, would also help.
In remote areas in tropical countries, many people lack electricity and clinics are often unable to store vaccines or medicines that need to be chilled, the study said. And in city slums, electricity supplies are often intermittent.
Many farmers or fishermen, meanwhile, lack access to a “cold chain” to preserve and transport products to markets. Fresh fish goes bad within hours if stored at 30 degrees Celsius (86°F) but stays fresh for days when chilled.
Last week, a study by the University of Birmingham in Britain projected that the number of cooling appliances could quadruple by 2050 to 14 billion worldwide, driving a surge in energy consumption.