UN calls for investment in sustainable cold food chains

According to a UN report, developing countries could save 144 million tonnes of food per year if they achieved the same level of food cold chain infrastructure as wealthier countries.

In the face of growing global food insecurity and global warming, two United Nations agencies have released a report urging governments, international development partners and industry to invest in sustainable food cold chains to reduce hunger, provide livelihoods to communities and adapt to climate change.

Launched at COP27, the world climate summit being held in Egypt, the report is the result of the work of the Sustainable Food Cold Chains initiative of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

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

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

More than three billion people in the world cannot afford healthy food today, with the lack of effective refrigeration directly leading to the loss of around 526 million tonnes of food per year, equivalent to 12 % of total production, according to the report.

Its authors point out that Food cold chains are key to meeting the challenge of feeding two billion more people by 2050 and harnessing the resilience of rural communities while avoiding rising greenhouse gas emissions.

The report further indicates that the development countries could save 144 million tons of food a year, if they could reach the same level of food cold chain infrastructure as wealthier countries.

According to FAO Director-General Dongyu Qu, sustainable food cold chains can also make a big difference in efforts to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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

The report also highlights the benefits that an adequate food cold chain could bring to the fight against climate change.

According to the agencies, emissions from food loss and waste due to lack of refrigeration totaled about one gigatonne of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2017, or about 2% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the loss of food also increases the unnecessary conversion of land for agricultural purposes, as well as the use of water, fossil fuels and energy.

Overall, the food cold chain is responsible for about 4% of total global greenhouse gas emissions when emissions from cold chain technologies and food losses caused by lack of refrigeration are included.

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

This has been the case in countries like India, where a sustainable food cold chain pilot project reduced kiwi fruit losses by 76% while reducing emissions through expanding the use of refrigerated transport.

In Nigeria, a project to install 54 operational ColdHubs saved 42,024 tons of food from spoilage and increased household incomes for 5,240 smallholder farmers, retailers and wholesalers by 50%.

In order to create these sustainable cold food chains, UN agencies have presented a list of recommendations that countries can implement, which include quantifying and benchmarking of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in existing food cold chains, cCollaborate and undertake food cold chain needs assessments andimplementation and enforcement of ambitious minimum efficiency standards, and monitoring and enforcement to prevent illegal imports of inefficient food cold chain equipment and refrigerants.

Food scarcity was already a topic of conversation at the 2021 climate summit in Glasgow (COP26), when experts advised delegates to be more environmentally conscious in their food choices.

Last summer, researchers from Rutgers University have found that fFood insecurity would be much more deadly than any nuclear explosion, in the event of a nuclear conflict.

In light of the risks associated with the global food shortage, scientists are working to develop innovative solutions. In August, Researchers at Michigan State University have designed a a composite resin suitable for making wind turbine blades that could one day be recycled into candy, while scientists from Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) has devised a method of 3D printing food that could bring alternative sources of protein, including algae, plants and insects, to the general public.

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