Today’s announcement that the UK Government will legislate to accept the clear recommendations of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change in its recent “Net Zero” report, is a significant step forward. Following Scotland’s agreement to an earlier 2045 target, it has implications for industrial sectors like food and drink that have a considerable carbon impact throughout the production chain.
However, the fine words must be matched by creative solutions from the Government to work with British industry to support the transition process. Enhanced resource efficiency needs to be championed across the food and beverage sector to deliver reduced carbon emissions.
Global businesses like Diageo and Arla have already accepted the 2050 Carbon Zero challenge but this must extend to the many smaller businesses that are part of the UK’s food sector. They will need fiscal and technical support to help the transition to clean manufacturing.
Changes to production systems must include access to clean energy and making better use of natural resources – including residual materials that are currently discarded or destroyed without thought to the climate or environmental impact.
Bio-residues from many production processes have a latent energy content. Bio-degradable effluents, by-products and reject materials that might previously have been disposed of have a re-use value. Industry must adopt a more circular approach which recognises the re-use or energy value of such residues in their redeployment.
Taking a more holistic approach to both energy supply and resource management will significantly reduce carbon emissions on factory sites. Businesses must be encouraged not only to make better use of resources but also to combine a range of on-site clean energy solutions. These can include the use of biogas from process residues to provide heat on factory sites and fuel for food distribution. This legislation is also a great opportunity for growing the UK’s green economy. Developing and deploying novel technologies will create engineering jobs and boost employment as well as creating export opportunities.