One of the most critical components of food and agriculture infrastructure is the availability of cold storage at every stop along the supply chain. What use is a trawler full of haddock if it rots before it gets from ship to shore, or processing facility to market? Food is wasted, income is lost, the potential to nourish a growing global population drops. Add emissions-producing refrigeration to the equation and at least four of the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) are threatened.
A recent report released jointly by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and its Environment Program determined that insufficient refrigeration was directly implicated in the loss of 526 million metric tons of food, or 12 percent of the global total, in 2017, which released 1 gigaton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As a result, it concluded that building up sustainable food cold chains worldwide was “fundamental” to protecting livelihoods, preserving the quality and safety of food and boosting climate resilience.
When it comes to seafood in particular, FAO estimates that “wastage between landing and consumption accounts for about 27 percent of the landed fish and within this, cold chain is a major percentage,” said Toby Peters, director of the Centre for Sustainable Cooling at the University of Birmingham and one of the report’s lead authors. In South and South East Asia, for example, 8.2 percent of seafood waste and loss comes from fish discarded due to lack of refrigeration, a number Peters calls “significant.”
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