• 2023 November 29 16:37

    Changing frozen food temperatures by just 3 degrees can save CO2 emissions of 3.8 million cars a year, study shows

    Academic research concludes that raising the standard temperature of most frozen food by three degrees could cut carbon emissions by the equivalent of taking 3.8m cars off the road

    Frozen food temperatures could be changed by just three degrees to save the carbon dioxide emissions of 3.8 million cars per year, research suggests. Most frozen food is transported and stored at -18°C, a standard that was set 93 years ago and has not changed since. A move to -15°C could make a significant environmental impact with no compromise on food safety or quality, the study found, the DP World press release said.

    The experts, from the Paris-based International Institute of Refrigeration, the University of Birmingham and London South Bank University, among others, found that the small change could: 

    • Save 17.7 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent annual emissions of 3.8m cars annually
    • Create energy savings of around 25 terawatt-hours (TW/h) - equivalent to 8.63% of the UK’s annual energy consumption
    • Cut costs in the supply chain by at least 5% and in some areas by up to 12% 

    The research was supported by the leading global logistics firm and principal partner in COP28, DP World, which has set up an industry-wide coalition to explore the feasibility of this change, named Join the Move to -15°C.

    This coalition aims to redefine frozen food temperature standards to cut greenhouse gases, lower supply chain costs and secure food resources for the world’s growing population.  

    The coalition has already been joined by leading industry organisations including: U.S. based AJC Group, A.P. Moller – Maersk (Maersk) of Denmark; Daikin of Japan; DP World; the Global Cold Chain Alliance; Switzerland’s Kuehne + Nagel International; U.S. based Lineage; Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) of Geneva; and Singapore-based Ocean Network Express (ONE).

    Maha AlQattan, Group Chief Sustainability Officer at DP World, said: “Frozen food standards have not been updated in almost a century. They are long overdue for revision. A small temperature increase could have huge benefits but - however committed each individual organisation is - the industry can only change what’s possible by working together. With this research and with our newly formed coalition, we aim to support collaboration across the industry to find viable ways to achieve the sector’s shared net zero ambition by 2050. The Move to -15°C will bring the industry together to explore new, greener standards to help decarbonise the sector on a global scale. Through this research, we can see how we can deploy accessible storage technologies in all markets to freeze food at sustainable temperatures, while reducing food scarcity for vulnerable and developed communities.”  

    Building resilience and ensuring future food security

    Annually, hundreds of millions of tonnes of food from blueberries to broccoli is transported around the world. While freezing food extends shelf life, it comes with a significant environmental cost – as 2-3% more energy is required for every degree below zero that food is stored at. Yet demand for frozen food is increasing as appetites evolve in developing countries and price-conscious consumers seek nutritious, tasty food at more affordable prices.

    At the same time, experts estimate that 12% of food produced annually is wasted due to a lack of refrigerated and frozen logistics, called the ‘cold chain’ in the industry, highlighting a significant need for greater capacity. Studies also suggest that 1.3 billion tonnes of edible food is thrown away every year – a third of global food production for human consumption. The need is particularly acute in areas like Sub-Saharan Africa and the Subcontinent. In Pakistan in 2022, for example, half of exportable mangoes were lost due to an extreme heatwave.

    According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, more than 820 million people are hungry today and 2 billion – roughly a quarter of the world’s population – suffer from food insecurity.   

    Professor Toby Peters, University of Birmingham and Heriot-Watt University and director of the Centre for Sustainable Cooling said: “Cold chains are critical infrastructure, vital for a well-functioning society and economy. They underpin our access to safe and nutritious food and health, as well as our ability to spur economic growth. Cold chain infrastructure, and the lack of it, have implications for global climate change and the environment.”

    Climate change-driven events such as droughts, floods, and heatwaves can reduce crop yields and harm livestock health and productivity. But freezing food can protect food sources and their nutritional value for months amid such crises.  

    Join the Move to -15°C is an initiative to create a just transition, deploying accessible storage technologies globally to freeze food at sustainable temperatures to reduce food scarcity for vulnerable and developed communities alike.

    Prof Peters added: “The UN predicts a population of 9.7 billion by 2050. To ensure food accessibility, we must close the 56% gap in the global food supply between what was produced in 2010 and what will be needed in 2050. Cutting cold chain emissions and transforming how food is safely stored and moved today helps ensure we can keep sustainably feeding communities across the globe as populations and global temperatures rise, protecting food sources for years to come. Building on this research, DP World’s coalition can be a key tool for overcoming today’s food challenges too, providing a stable inventory of quality food for the 820 million starving people worldwide and security for another 2 billion who are struggling with food scarcity.”




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