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The Million Cool Roofs Challenge, announced this week, aims to scale up the deployment of solar-reflective ‘cool’ roofs in developing countries suffering from heat stress.

The global competition will provide $2 million in grants to applicants with the most promising ideas and demonstrated success bringing cool roof innovations to scale.

Challenge partners include the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program (K-CEP) in collaboration with the Global Cool Cities Alliance (GCCA), Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), and Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre.

In the most vulnerable countries, over 1 billion people face significant risks from extreme heat every year and live without access to electricity for cooling. Another 2.3 billion can afford to purchase only the most inefficient models of air conditioning, which use super polluting HFC gases that are thousands of times more polluting than CO2. The increasing demand for cooling, if not better managed, is a colossal climate threat.

Through innovative coating materials, cool roofs can reduce indoor temperatures by 2-3° C in buildings, helping reduce demand for air conditioning for those that can afford it, while providing a passive cooling solution for the billions who cannot. When deployed across a whole community, the reflective surfaces of cool roofs provide relief indoors and can also have a net cooling effect, reducing local ambient air temperatures.

A recent report from SEforALL, Chilling Prospects: Providing Sustainable Cooling For All, directly linked strategies to deploy more highly reflective “cool” roofs and walls to help support faster progress on the Paris Climate Accord, Sustainable Development Goals, and the Montreal Protocol.

“We are thrilled to launch this challenge, which will spur innovative approaches to combat extreme heat by supporting local businesses and communities throughout the developing world,” said Dan Hamza-Goodacre, Executive Director of K-CEP.

“Ultimately, this competition is about improving quality of life through sustainable cooling solutions and economic opportunity.”

“Highly-reflective cool roofs are a unique, sustainable and cost-effective solution that helps close the gap in access to cooling for billions of people in the developing world,” said Kurt Shickman of Global Cool Cities.

“This Challenge is an unprecedented global effort to speed lasting market transformations that are critical for community resiliency, particularly in regions of the world that are most vulnerable to the deadly impacts of a warming planet.”

The application period opens with today’s launch and closes on May 20, 2019. In August 2019, selected teams will be informed if they have been accepted. The ten best proposals will each will be given a $100,000 “Boost Award” to support the scale up of cool roofs solutions to compete in the final round.

“As the world grows dangerously warm, access to cooling is becoming the difference between life and death. This challenge will give local communities – often those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change – a practical, affordable and sustainable solution to keep their buildings cool,” said Rachel Kyte, CEO of SEforALL and Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General.

“We encourage international organizations, NGOs, city-level governments, and private businesses to apply.”

The competition will conclude in December 2020, by which time teams must have demonstrated that they have met the judging criteria, of which a target to reach one million square meters of cool roof product deployed is an important factor.

The Grand Prize of US $1M will go to the team that provides the most effective, sustainable and transferrable model for scaling up between August 2019 and December 2020.

Potential applicants are invited to register interest on the Challenge website at coolroofschallenge.org.