All resources
Blog post AccessPassive Cooling

Global Million Cool Roofs Challenge Launched

Global Million Cool Roofs Challenge Launched

Project will award US$2M to spur community cooling innovations in the face of a rapidly warming planet

Contact: Nicole Bender – (202) 557-5031,


San Francisco—The Million Cool Roofs Challenge was announced today with the aim of scaling up the deployment of solar-reflective “cool” roofs in developing countries suffering from heat stress. The global competition will provide US$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.

Shown above: the roof at Naga College in the Philippines before (left) and after (right) becoming a cool roof, which reduces the absorption of external heat and the need for air conditioning in buildings.

“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


About the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program
The Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program (K-CEP) is a philanthropic program to support the Kigali Amendment of the Montreal Protocol. 17 foundations and individuals have pledged $51 million to help increase the energy efficiency of cooling in developing countries. Through K-CEP, these funds will help nations transition to more energy efficient cooling, whilst they phase down the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons and replace them with newer, climate-safe coolants. K-CEP is an initiative of the ClimateWorks Foundation. For more information visit and follow us at @Kigali_Cooling.

About the Global Cool Cities Alliance
Global Cool Cities Alliance (GCCA) launched in 2010 to accelerate a world-wide transition to cooler, healthier cities. Its mission is to advance urban heat island mitigation policies and programs to promote more efficient and comfortable buildings, healthier and more resilient cities, and to cancel some of the warming effects of climate change through global cooling. Increasing the solar reflectance of urban surfaces such as roofs and roads is a cost-effective strategy to achieve these goals.

About Sustainable Energy for All 
Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) empowers leaders to broker partnerships and unlock finance to achieve universal access to sustainable energy, as a contribution to a cleaner, just and prosperous world for all. SEforALL exists to reduce the carbon intensity of energy while making it available to everyone on the planet. For more information, visit and follow us at @SEforALLorg.

About Nesta
Nesta is a global innovation foundation. We back new ideas to tackle the big challenges of our time, making use of our knowledge, networks, funding and skills. We work in partnership with others, including governments, businesses and charities. We are a UK charity that works all over the world, supported by a financial endowment. Within Nesta, the Challenge Prize Centre uses prizes to stimulate innovative solutions to some of the biggest challenges we face. To find out more visit Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833.

Published February 6, 2019