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Home » UNEP OzonAction and GFCCC launch Cold Chain Database and Modelling initiative

UNEP OzonAction and GFCCC launch Cold Chain Database and Modelling initiative

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By United Nations Environment Programme | OzonAction

The initiative marks the first formal step to assist developing countries in identifying their cold chain baseline along with their consumption of relevant HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) or HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons), or other refrigerants.

Understanding the cold chain challenges and gaps would facilitate the introduction of overarching strategies or policies to advance better selection environmentally-friendly technologies, minimise food loss or waste and eliminate unnecessary emissions. Image credit: UNEP OzonAction | GFCCC

Understanding the cold chain challenges and gaps would facilitate the introduction of overarching strategies or policies to advance better selection environmentally-friendly technologies, minimise food loss or waste and eliminate unnecessary emissions. Image credit: UNEP OzonAction | GFCCC

The initiative, developed in 2019, kicked off at the 31st meeting of parties to the Montreal Protocol in Rome, Italy, concluded with the Rome Declaration: “The contribution of the Montreal Protocol to food loss reduction through sustainable cold chain development”.

The launch also took place in advance of the United Nations Food Systems Summit. With the support provided by the Montreal Protocol’s Multilateral Fund, the Cold Chain Database initiative is currently being piloted in six countries – Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, The Maldives, North Macedonia, Paraguay, and Senegal. From these pilot data gathering initiatives, a model is being developed that will allow the projection of benefits of cold chain expansion.

The GFCCC is an independent not-for-profit industry organisation that seeks to simultaneously reduce food waste, and related greenhouse gas emissions in the processing, transportation, storage, and retail display of cold food by expanding and improving access to energy-efficient low-global warming potential technology.

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The need for a cold chain database

To quantify the contribution of the cold chain to food loss/waste, refrigerants & energy consumption, and economies; there is a need to better understand the complexity of the sector.

In terms of applications, most non-standalone units are tailored/designed for a specific application or facility and not an off-shelf products. From the institutional perspective, it is also not an easy task to find detailed information, logs, or statistics about cold chain capacities in most countries where several authorities are responsible for different segments of the sector, such as Agriculture, Industry, Economy, Environment, and other local entities.

Hence, understanding the cold chain challenges and gaps would facilitate the introduction of overarching strategies or policies to advance the wise selection of lower-GWP technologies, minimise food loss/waste, and eliminate unnecessary emissions at different operations and practices of cold chain.

The database will be the cornerstone for building a sustainable path for the cold chain, in a country, using robust and validated detailed information about all sub-sectors vis-a-vis different economic segments.

What is the cold chain database?

A model to quantify stocks, understand gaps and project scenarios of the cold chain applications at different cold chain processes through a comprehensive assessment methodology and a thorough data collection approach that captures information about technologies, refrigerants, food loss, energy, economics, and operation practices.

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Scope of Coverage

The cold chain database will cover analysis of data and information of seven main sectors, namely:

  1. Primary production
  2. Food and drink processing
  3. Bulk cold storage
  4. Refrigerated transport
  5. Food and drink retail
  6. Food service
  7. Residential

Types of products handled by the food cold chain sector are grouped as follows:

  1. Meat and poultry
  2. Seafood
  3. Dairy and eggs
  4. Fruit
  5. Vegetables
  6. Beverages
  7. Other processed products

Noting that pharmaceutical and vaccine applications are currently part of the food services classification, but most likely will become a separate section with specific questionnaire.

Outputs

Initial outputs include to understand current status, with assessment of:

  • stock of cooling equipment in different parts of cold chain sectors
  • energy usage and related CO₂ emissions
  • refrigerants usage and related CO₂ equivalent
  • levels of food loss linked to a lack of refrigerated food cold chain (RFCC)

Longer term outputs include to assess future scenarios:

  • with different levels of improvement to RFCC, for example, minimum, mid, maximum
  • make assessment of investment required for each scenario, potential benefits (for example GHG reduction; financial value of food saved), potential impacts (example. extra energy use / CO₂ emissions)

Data collection stages

  • Stage 1: Country questionnaire, high level; using national data sources – host country to complete questionnaire – structured to collect available statistics on production, number of relevant food chain facilities, levels of food loss.
  • Stage 2: Country research, detailed data for example via sample of site surveys – based on Questionnaire, develop a customised investigation plan – host country to collect detailed data based on this plan.

Structure of the Data

The model is designed to capture the details and specifics of each sub-sector; therefore, the classification and categorisation of sectors and sub-sectors was critical to ensure the comprehensiveness and inclusiveness of the model.

In addition to the main sectors that are identified, 20+ sub-sectors and 50+ sub-sub-sectors are being classified within the scope of work of the cold chain database model. A detailed set of questionnaires have been developed to facilitate the stage-I and Stage-II data collection process.

All questionnaires are also available in three languages (English, French, and Spanish). The data to be collected in each sub-sector includes five main topics:

  1. Population and types of applications in each sub-sub-sector
  2. Type, quantities, and service practices of refrigerants used for each type of application
  3. Basic energy consumption data
  4. Information about food loss estimates and causes
  5. Basic capital and operating expenditures (CAPEX/OPEX) of different types of facilities

Piloting the database

With the launch of the Cold Chain Database model concept in 2019, GFCCC and UNEP OzonAction co-operated to mobilise champion countries for piloting the model using thorough data collection methodology and cooperation with GFCCC-UNEP teams in validating their national data against the model. Currently, there are 6 countries from 5 regions involved in piloting the model.

Extending the service

While the database is currently being piloted, GFCCC and UNEP OzonAction are expanding their line of service through offering the Cold Chain Database Methodology to interested governments and local institutions that are implementing relevant programs.

The line of services includes several levels such as access to the complete methodology and data collection questionnaires, access to use the database interface platform, technical support to assist interested countries to review or validate their data as well as advance design of scenario modelling for analysing possible benefits and impacts.

Local Stakeholders

The National Ozone Units (NOUs) are currently the main focal points for leading the work under this model in the six pilot countries. However, other entities might also be taking the lead at the national level depending on the local context, the connection with relevant programs, and the resources required to conduct necessary data collection.

In principle, there are key local players that need to provide input (feed-in or validate data) to the model, regardless of the lead entity, which are:

  • Agriculture and food authorities
  • Statistics authorities
  • Environment authorities
  • Industry and trade authorities
  • Energy authorities
  • Technology providers
  • Cold Chain associations and expert groups

Further information and access to the complete Database Methodology document is available for download from the UNEP OzonAction website.

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