Industry underscores support for net zero transition, but warns fresh policy interventions are required to decarbonise heat across the sector
The food and drink industry has become the latest sector to step up calls for the government to deliver a green recovery package, warning fresh action is required to decarbonise food and drink supply chains.
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) this afternoon published a new report on the Decarbonisation of Heat Across the Food and Drink Manufacturing Sector, which warns that based on current trends the UK's largest manufacturing sector will struggle to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
The FDF stressed that its members remained committed to meeting the UK's net zero target, but were concerned that the government's Food and Drink Sector Roadmap had not been updated since 2015, despite the move last year to strengthen the country's long term carbon targets.
Specifically, the report - which was developed by SLR Consulting - predicts the industry will only be able to reduce emissions from heat by 64 per cent by 2050 when compared to 2012 without further interventions, thereby missing the net zero target.
It also warns that more collaboration is required across the industry to ensure the increased use of biomass heat is sustainable and can draw on reliable feedstocks such as food waste.
"As the UK's largest manufacturing sector, the food and drink industry is absolutely committed to a green recovery post Covid-19 and achieving the government's net zero carbon target by 2050,"said Emma Piercy, head of energy and climate change at FDF.
"In producing this report, we have identified a clear pathway to net zero and the challenges we will need to overcome in order to meet that target. But we can't do it alone. Businesses will need clear direction and support to make that transition."
The report puts forward a number of policy recommendations, including proposals for a new food and drink industry taskforce to bring together manufacturers, appliance manufacturers, and policymakers to facilitate knowledge sharing across the sector and accelerate the roll out of new technologies, as well as the wider use of Local Enterprise Partnerships to help overcome local planning challenges for electricity and gas networks.
It also calls on the government to implement a new phase of Climate Change Agreements post 2025, which would provide tax breaks for companies that install approved clean technologies.
And it proposes that the government should more broadly establish a new "collaborative approach with industry to design a financial support scheme for industrial decarbonisation".
Julie Gartside, European operations manager for advisory services at SLR Consulting, said there were "reasons to be optimistic because deep decarbonisation of heat used by the food and drink sector is technically possible".
But she warned the changes required to manufacturing processes and energy supply systems to deliver green heat across the entire sector are "so significant that the sector cannot do this alone". "Collaboration between the food and drink sector, Government, equipment manufacturers and other stakeholders will be needed to realise the opportunity before us," she concluded.
The government was considering a request for comment at the time of going to press.
The report comes in the same week as a group of companies, including a number from the food sector, called on the government to rethink proposed reforms to its green heat incentive scheme that would remove government support for large scale heat pumps that could help slash emissions in many non-domestic and district heat settings.
Dubbed Pump it Up, the campaign is arguing that it is "nonsensical" to remove support for commercial scale heat pump technologies, warning that without some form of continued hundreds of new projects across the country could be shelved, including ambitious proposals to build a fleet of low carbon greenhouses across the UK could be shelved.
Defending the plans in its original consultation document, the government said it had proposed introduce a 45kW capacity limit for projects that were eligible for support "in order to target taxpayer funding most effectively in helping support the installer base for off gas grid" projects.
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