Sustainable Food Cold Chains: Opportunities, Challenges and the Way Forward

An estimated 14 percent of the total food produced for human consumption is lost, while 17 per cent is wasted. This is enough to feed around 1 billion people in a world where currently 811 million people are hungry and 3 billion cannot afford a healthy diet. The lack of effective refrigeration is a leading contributor to this challenge, resulting in the loss of 12 percent of total food production, in 2017. Moreover, the food cold chain is responsible for 4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, including from cold chain technologies and food loss and waste due to lack of refrigeration.

A new report by FAO and  explores how food cold chain development can become more sustainable and makes a series of important recommendations. These include governments and other cold chain stakeholders collaborating to adopt a systems approach and develop National Cooling Action Plans, backing plans with financing and targets, implementing and enforcing ambitious minimum efficiency standards.

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer – a universally ratified multilateral environmental agreement – can contribute to mobilizing and scaling up solutions for delivering sustainable, efficient, and environmentally friendly cooling through its Kigali Amendment and Rome Declaration. Reducing non-CO2 emissions, including refrigerants used in cold chain technologies is key to achieve the Paris Agreement targets, as highlighted in the latest mitigation report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

At a time when the international community must act to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, sustainable food cold chains can make an important difference.