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Sustainable food cold chains reduce waste, fight climate change

Reducing food loss and waste could have a positive impact on climate change, according to the report


These systems are critical to maintaining the quality, nutritional value and safety of food, especially since an estimated 14% of all food produced for human consumption is lost before it reaches consumers.

More investment is also required if the world is to rise to the challenge of feeding an additional two billion people by mid-century.

Multiple crises, big difference

The report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) was presented at the COP27 climate change conference taking place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

“At a time when the international community must act to address the climate and food crises, sustainable food cold chains can make a world of difference,” said Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director.

“They allow us to reduce food loss, improve food security, lower greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs, reduce poverty and build resilience, all in one fell swoop.”

hunger on the rise

Food waste is occurring as the number of hungry people around the world has risen to 828 million in 2021, or 46 million more than the previous year.

In 2020, almost 3.1 billion people could not afford a healthy diet, 112 million more than in 2019, as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic increased inflation. This year, the war in Ukraine has threatened world food security.

The report argues that developing countries could save a staggering 144 million tons of food a year if they achieved the same level of food cold chain infrastructure as wealthier nations.

Better life for all

Sustainable food cold chains can also make a significant difference in efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to FAO Director-General Dongyu Qu.

“All stakeholders can help implement the findings of this report, to transform agri-food systems to be more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable, for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for everyone, leaving no one behind. back,” he said.

Impacts on climate change

The food cold chain has serious implications for climate change and the environment, the report revealed. Emissions from food loss and waste due to lack of refrigeration totaled about one gigatonne of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2017, or about two percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Food loss also increases the unnecessary conversion of land for agricultural purposes, as well as the use of water, fossil fuels, and energy.

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Reducing food loss and waste could have a positive impact on climate change, according to the report, but only if new infrastructure is designed to use gases with low global warming potential.

Results and recommendations

Sustainable food cold chains are already making a difference in countries like India, where a pilot project reduced kiwifruit losses by 76% and reduced emissions by expanding the use of refrigerated transport.

The report contains recommendations that include quantifying energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in existing food cold chains, setting benchmarks, and identifying reduction opportunities.

Authorities can also implement and enforce ambitious minimum efficiency standards, as well as monitor and enforce, to prevent illegal imports of refrigerants and inefficient food cold chain equipment.

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