The refrigeration and air conditioning industry has delivered powerful environmental results over the last 20 years - reducing emissions of refrigerants by 90 per cent and improving the energy efficiency of our equipment by 60 per cent.

Our industry has more to do and we are getting on with the job.

Federal and State Governments, however, have given us a new front where our industry can help Australia deliver more emission savings while feeding more people and saving the economy millions of dollars.

The Australian Government’s election commitment to reduce food waste by 50 per cent by 2030 is underway.

Federal and all State and Territory environment ministers across Australia provided their support to this commitment at the November meeting of environment ministers.

In April 2017, leaders from across the food supply chain met and provided their commitment to achieve this important initiative.

The stakes are high. Megan Clarke, former head of the CSIRO, was both right and wrong when she stated that, "in the next 50 years, we will need to produce as much food as we have ever produced in the entire human history."

We already produce enough food, but 40 per cent of it is wasted globally: it isn't used to feed people.

The costs of food waste are not just hunger, it is also wasted resources: farmland, water, energy, greenhouse gas emissions. In fact according to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation, if we counted food waste as a country, it would rank third behind China and the United States in greenhouse gas emissions.

The statistics for Australia are no less startling. We waste, on average, 860 kg of food per person every year. The greenhouse gas emissions from that waste is more than 4% of our national total. Achieving the goal of halving food waste by 2030 will save more emissions than the HFC phase down.

So what is the role of the refrigeration industry in this endeavour?

The food cold chain is critical for reducing food waste. In developed countries like Australia most of the food that gets wasted is fresh food. While we do not have specific data for Australia, undoubtedly improving the efficiency and effectiveness of food cold chain will lead to better results.

The data for the European Union is compelling. Deloitte recently did a study and found that for every unit of emissions that was created by expanding an efficient food cold chain in Europe the benefits of reduced food waste was 10 units.

There is an opportunity to grow our industry in a way that feeds hungry people and actually reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Rarely do the stars line up in such a way where the benefits of action are so crystal clear. 

Some of the actions we can take are readily available. We have appropriate standards and guidelines - but as many of us know compliance with these documents is inconsistent. By working with the food, warehousing and transport industries to deliver on these already agreed documents we can have some early and substantive wins.

We also need to figure out what else we can deliver. There will be opportunities to engage with the Government over the coming months.

There will be industry consultation and a discussion paper draft National Food Waste Strategy is expected to will be released in the next three or four months.

All of this will lead to a Ministerial National Food Waste Summit in November and agreement to release an agreed strategy in 2018.

The challenge facing us is large, but the benefits are massive. We should do what we have done so successfully in reducing emissions from refrigerants and energy use: let's work with government and deliver an improved food cold chain, a significant reduction in food waste and improved environmental performance.


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