Roadmap and conquer

I know from communications with various people over recent months that there is real determination and ambition when it comes to making the food and beverage sector greener and tackling climate change.

I also know that there are real concerns about the scale of the challenge we face and many unanswered questions.

For many companies these concerns are amplified by the need for the sector to deliver on promises and deliver on the issue of sustainability, which features more prominently in business plans.

This is why FoodDrinkEurope has launched a roadmap on decarbonisation (by Alfredo Lopez, and Rebeca Turner, environmental consultants at Ricardo).

Decarbonisation Roadmap for the Food and Drink Manufacturing Sector states that food production from farm-to-fork represents 30 per cent of total carbon emissions within the EU, with the manufacturing process accounting for 11 per cent of this total.

The EU’s commitment to transition to a net zero economy by 2050 sees the food and drink sector proactively working to support this. 

There are many challenges (and questions) when it comes to decarbonising industry and cutting carbon emissions. Where do we start? What technology should we use? How do we engage and enthuse businesses? How do we build capability and capacity in supply chains? How best can we cooperate and collaborate more effectively as a sector?

The concerns I hear expressed most frequently are around how we fund and finance the work given the significant costs involved, and around how we plan and prepare for 2050 given the lack of policy and regulatory clarity.

The Ricardo consultants outlined the barriers they see:

  • Many of the technologies and infrastructure developments that will be needed are currently in an immature state.
  • The sector faces high investment costs against a background of unstable policy and rising energy costs.
  • Many plants will require retrofit solutions with long installation times, and others may find themselves isolated from the infrastructure necessary for change.
  • Over 99% of the sector comprises SMEs that are likely to face challenges in accessing funding and other resources.

And these are some of the very issues explored through the roadmap on decarbonisation, which assesses the climate impact of the European food and drink manufacturing sector and sets out some of the available pathways for decarbonisation.

The roadmap estimates that the total emissions from the sector are 94Mt CO2e/year – almost as much as the total emissions of Belgium! The majority of these are associated with energy use, with two thirds being consumed as heat and one third as electricity. Within the roadmap more than 90 measures for decarbonisation have been identified and assessed for their availability and applicability to different scenarios.

In spite of these barriers, moving towards net zero presents food and drink manufacturers with a range of opportunities:

  • There are many opportunities for low temperature processes to be fuelled by renewable energy sources.
  • Many energy efficiency measures will provide reduced operating costs.
  • Customers are becoming more environmentally aware, increasing the competitive edge for companies with low carbon credentials.
  • EU funding is already available to support decarbonisation efforts.

Lead author and Ricardo director Alfredo Lopez Carretero said businesses should start with setting an emissions baseline and selecting a tool that will guide them in their decision-making process.

He is right in asserting that the report helps in facilitating dialogue between industry and policymakers, to assist with what is a “challenging transition.”

We need to be realistic about what can be achieved at this stage, and recognise that there are many questions that cannot yet be answered. However, I look forward to seeing the reaction to the roadmap and how it provides  help industry prepare and plan for a net zero helping to deliver a cleaner, greener future.

Photo by Olga Lioncat from Pexels

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