Dow to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through food packaging solutions

Marking the first carbon mitigation project in Japan under Dow’s Official Carbon Partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Dow and AEON CO – the largest retailer in Asia – signed a Carbon Project Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and food loss by utilising Dow technologies in food packaging solutions and practices. The Dow-AEON Carbon Project Agreement is one of several projects executed by Dow and the IOC around the world as part of the carbon partnership program.

The international community set a goal of halving per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels as part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With a reliance on imported crops, Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate is at a 25-year low. In contrast, 6.43 million tons of food in Japan are wasted per year due to food products that are unsold, unconsumed or past the expiration date.

“Plastic packaging can play a critical role in reducing food loss, ensuring consumer safety and meeting environmental goals of lowering carbon emissions,” said Dr. Nicoletta Piccolrovazzi, circular economy market director for Dow and global technology and sustainability director for Dow Olympic and Sports Solutions. “At Dow, we foster collaboration across the value chain – film producers, converters, equipment manufacturers, brand owners and retailers – to promote packaging solutions that support resource efficiency and a more circular economy. In teaming up with AEON on this project, the goal is twofold: integrate new packaging technologies that preserve food freshness and deliver quantifiable environmental impacts, while raising awareness with consumers on the issue of food loss and its importance.”

In 2017, AEON committed to contributing to the industry’s SDG by setting a target of halving the company’s own food waste by 2025. AEON started adopting the use of vacuum skin packaging (VSP) for several types of food in its stores owned by group companies. Supported by Dow’s lonomer technology (in Japan, a joint venture, Dow-Mitsui Polychemicals Co., Ltd., manufactures and markets under a license from Dow)4, VSP extends the shelf life of products and offers better protection during shipment, leading to food loss mitigation and carbon reduction throughout the lifecycle.

“Powered by our vision for a low carbon society and a country with zero food waste, AEON has set challenging yet attainable sustainability goals for our company and customers that will contribute to the industry’s effort to help build a sustainable future,” said AEON. “This agreement will accelerate the achievement of our goals through this first-of-its-kind food packaging collaboration in Japan.”

Aeon’s group company – Daiei, made a trial sale in November 2019 with four of its beef products. Since then, they have expanded their product lineups to include poultry and lamb packaged products, with plans to increase the store count and expand this packaging solution to seafood application.

The collaboration with Dow and AEON will drive the adoption of more sustainable solutions that mitigate GHG emissions throughout the products’ lifecycle. The resulting climate benefits will be validated by a third party and contribute to Dow’s Official Carbon Partnership with the IOC.

“Through the reduction in food loss and food waste, combined with the need for less packaging material, VSP provides a better-protected product with an improved environmental footprint,” said Taro Fukuzaki, Executive Vice President, Dow-Mitsui Polychemicals. “This technology removes nearly all residual oxygen from the package, which not only leads to extended shelf life of products and better protection during shipment, but also minimizes the need for added preservatives depending on its applications. The strong sealant and surface adhesion to meats and seafood helps minimize migration of liquids and presents a cleaner package to the consumer.”

Dow’s Carbon Partnership with the IOC aims to help to build a positive legacy of low-carbon business practices and drive action-focused collaborations against climate change. Initiated in 2017 to balance the operational carbon footprint of the IOC and beyond, the partnership encourages organizations outside the Olympic movement to adopt programs for reducing carbon emissions while catalyzing change across value chains. Dow also recently committed to additional global carbon emissions reduction targets, including achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

Investment in climate-smart rice production is the cornerstone of global food security

Leveraging climate finance to scale climate-smart rice production is the cornerstone of global food security and urgently needed to avert civil unrest, a new report by Earth Security Group (ESG) has found.

Proposing three innovative finance solutions to support sustainable rice production in line with the Paris Agreement climate targets, Financing Sustainable Rice for a Secure Future is published today by ESG, with support of the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), the leading food and agribusiness company Phoenix, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

These include a ‘rice bond’ to finance sustainable rice value chains taking advantage of 2020 being a key year for the growth of green bonds in the agriculture sector, as highlighted by the Climate Bonds Initiative. A rice bond would enable a global rice processor, trader, or retailer to provide farmers with capital to transition to sustainable production, improve farming practices, increase yields and revenue, and become more resilient to climate risks.

Coming ahead of the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 25) in Madrid, ESG recommends leveraging international climate finance to attract private sector investment for climate-smart rice production.  Country pledges that include rice in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) would be the first place to start. At present, forty-eight countries include in their NDCs the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from rice paddies but have not yet outlined how they plan to incentivise the private sector to achieve these targets.

Rice is vital to the food security of over half the world’s population (3.5 billion), with Asia accounting for 90 per cent of global rice consumption. In lower-income countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam, up to 70 per cent of people’s dietary energy comes from rice. The commodity is the source of 10 per cent of global anthropogenic methane emissions. In Southeast Asia – the world’s rice bowl – rice cultivation accounts for up to 25-33 per cent of the region’s methane emissions, and between 10-20 per cent of its overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Under a business-as-usual scenario, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) anticipates that rice production will fall across the world. Asia will be particularly hard hit due to a convergence of land degradation, climate change, and water scarcity.

Larger rice-producing countries such as India and China, with extensive territories that cover a range of climatic zones, will have more space to shift rice cultivation to cooler areas that will become suitable for growing rice. However, smaller producers and importers in the tropical belt, such as countries in Southeast Asia and West Africa, lack such flexibility to adapt.

Pick the low-hanging fruit to get tough on climate change

One might think – after years of focus on global warming – that all the easy measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions had been taken. And yet, as governments prepare for their 21st annual conference on climate change (COP21), some surprisingly low-hanging fruit remains.

I don’t mean small fruit, either. I’m talking about big, high-yield fruit. Consider this: fitting energy efficient electric motors on all pumps and fans with devices to regulate their speed would save 3,338 TWh (3.3 million GWh)*, roughly equivalent to 14 times the amount of electrical energy consumed in Australia in 2012.

The opportunity is so huge because electric motors are among the biggest consumers of energy. They power all manner of equipment and account for about 28 per cent of all electricity consumed worldwide. 

In recent years Australia, along with several other countries, such as the United States, China and the European Union, has imposed new rules requiring older, energy-hungry motors to be phased out. These rules, known as Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS), specify the minimum acceptable efficiency levels of a product, defining which products can be marketed and sold. Typically, these MEPS become more stringent over time. 

In Australia, rules requiring a higher efficiency class of motors came into effect in 2006, but have not been tightened since.

MEPS in Australia will ultimately lead to the upgrading of the installed base of electric motors. However, at the current pace of implementation, and taking account of loopholes and enforcement issues, they will likely fall short of the energy savings needed to achieve climate goals, especially given that global energy consumption is expected to increase by 30 per cent over the next 15 years.

One reason is that MEPS specify the efficiency of individual products, in this case electric motors, rather than the efficiency of motor systems. No matter how efficient a motor is, if it cannot regulate its speed according to load, it will always be operating at full throttle. Legislation is gradually changing to take account of this – for instance, EU rules that came into force in January 2015 specify that certain (less-efficient) motors must be able to adjust their speed. But only around 10 per cent of motors in service worldwide are currently equipped with (variable speed) drives that allow them to do this, even though the energy savings can be substantial – up to 50 per cent in some cases.

Another challenge is to establish common MEPS globally. Again, progress is being made in this area, with more and more countries moving towards harmonized standards, but much remains to be done. A recent study commissioned by the European Commission** concluded that, if the most stringent current MEPS for product energy efficiency were harmonized today, global final energy consumption would be 9 per cent lower, and energy consumption due specifically to products would be 21 per cent lower. This would save 8,950 TWh of electricity, equivalent to closing 165 coal-fired power plants, or taking 132 million cars off the road.

The clock is ticking on climate change. The weight of scientific opinion is that we don’t have much more time to turn the tide on emissions, otherwise it will not be possible to limit global warming to two degrees above pre-industrial levels, which is considered the maximum temperature rise we can sustain without triggering potentially catastrophic climate events.

Of all the actions that can and are being taken to limit carbon emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change, none holds out more promise than improving energy efficiency. There are numerous measures that can be undertaken immediately, without fear of harming economic growth; indeed, since most investments in energy efficient technology are paid back within a year or two through lower energy costs, they can significantly boost competitiveness and through the replacement of old equipment generate additional economic activity. Fruit doesn’t hang much lower than this.

* Calculation is based on ABB’s installed base of variable speed drives, which covers around 20 per cent of the global market and is estimated to be saving some 445 TWh of electricity annually.

** “Savings and benefits of global regulations for energy efficient products”, European Union, September 2015

Dr Ulrich Spiesshofer is President and Chief Executive Officer of ABB Ltd., a $US40 billion company specializing in power and automation technologies that enable utility and industry customers to improve performance while lowering environmental impact. The ABB Group of companies operates in around 100 countries and employs about 140,000 people.