Emerging technologies in the food, transport and energy sectors can help counter the effects of climate change


The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – to which one of us (Arunima) contributed – highlighted the need for huge changes if we are to stay within the warming limit 1.5 degrees Celsius.

This objective of the Paris Agreement is currently beyond our reach. Achieving this would require drastic reductions in emissions across all sectors and at all scales.

Here are some emerging technologies in the food, transport and energy sectors with great potential to address the climate challenge.

1. Alternative sources of protein The IPCC report highlights the potential of plant-based diets, not only to reduce emissions, but also to improve our collective well-being more generally.

Plant-based protein sources, including “fake meat” products, are increasingly being produced to mimic the look, flavor and texture of animal meat.

Traditionally, alternative proteins such as tofu were made from simply coagulating soy milk. A few decades ago we saw the emergence of mycoprotein, which is derived from a fungus (and was popularized by the Quorn brand).

Newer protein alternatives require advanced extrusion techniques and artificial colors and flavors to mimic the texture and flavor of animal protein.

Then there are cell-based meat substitutes, also known as “laboratory”, cultured or “in-vitro” meats. These are made using advanced bioengineering techniques to grow meat cells from a sample (starter cells) extracted from an animal, inside a device called a “bioreactor”. “.

Cellular meat is an emerging technology. It first went on sale in 2020, in Singapore. It’s not yet commercially available in Australia, but according to reports, work has begun behind the scenes.

Compared to livestock meat, plant-based meats produce 30-90% fewer greenhouse gas emissions, require 40-98% less land, 70-80% less water, and release 85 94% less reactive nitrogen (which can lead to excess algae). growth that deprives marine life of oxygen).

Australia is the third fastest growing vegan market in the world. Australia’s leading industry research body, CSIRO, estimates that the sustainable food market here alone will be worth AU$25 billion by 2030.

In addition, alternative proteins represent the second largest market potential of all categories in the food and agri-food sector. They are expected to generate some A$5.4 billion in carbon and water savings by 2030.

2. Edible and biodegradable packaging As the name suggests, edible or biodegradable food packaging is designed to be eaten or to biodegrade effectively. Edible wrappers are made of natural polymers extracted from plant sources, which can be made into various films and coatings. Some examples are chitosan-based wrappers, made primarily from seafood industry waste. Whey-based wrappers, made from seaweed polysaccharides from dairy industry waste extracted seaweed.

In addition to being environmentally friendly, edible packaging could improve the nutritional value of packaged foods, by incorporating compounds called “nutraceuticals” that can improve the nutritional composition of packaged foods. Adding antioxidants and antimicrobials to packaging can also increase the shelf life of foods.

A lot of work needs to be done to make edible packaging mainstream, but it’s proven to be a good alternative to plastic bottles for marathon runners.

In 2020, Australia only recycled 16% of plastics. Globally, only around 17% of plastics were recycled in 2015. The rest ended up in landfills, oceans and rivers – damaging land and marine systems – or generated carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions during incineration.

Fossil fuel-based plastics can take 20 to 500 years to break down, while biodegradable packaging breaks down in three to six months depending on the material.

The global biodegradable packaging market is estimated to grow by 17% every year and will be valued at $12.06 billion by 2025.

Australia has set a target for 70% of plastic packaging to be recycled or composted by 2025 and to phase out single-use plastics by 2025. Innovation in edible and biodegradable packaging could help greatly in supporting these reduction targets.

3. Electric vehicles Although they have been a hot topic for some time now, electric vehicles cannot be overlooked.

The IPCC has identified electric vehicles as having the greatest decarbonization potential for land transport. Why? Because the increased adoption of electric vehicles, facilitated by falling costs, has already reduced emissions. And the market share of electric vehicles has tripled in two years.

In Australia, the energy and transport sectors account for more than 50% of carbon emissions. Research shows that electric vehicles could transform the transport sector if combined with a 100% renewable electricity system where all the energy used is produced from renewable sources.

Additionally, if all vehicles were electric and we had a 100% renewable electricity system, consumers could expect to save around A$1,000-2,000 per year (based on the price of electricity). gasoline from AU$1.40 to AU$2.00 per litre).

Electric vehicles need to be charged, but this may or may not be controlled. Uncontrolled charging allows the user to charge their vehicle at any time of the day, while controlled charging relies on maximizing benefits by charging during the day, for example, when there is plenty of sunlight. Running around 16 million electric vehicles on Australian roads would require 205 gigawatts of installed capacity to provide the electricity needed for charging if based on a 100% renewable electricity system.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were 23,000 electric vehicles registered in Australia in 2021, out of around 20 million total vehicles. Australia is falling behind other developed countries in the race to adopt this technology.

4. The vast potential of hydrogen Solar and wind power are well-established and feasible options for reducing emissions — and are even cheaper than non-renewable sources.

But at the same time, both are variable energy sources that depend on weather, season, geography, and time of day. This can lead to supply shortages, for which alternative sources should be considered.

Hydrogen, which produces no carbon emissions when burned, is a potential option. It can be produced by separating water using electricity from wind and solar sources. It also provides a way to store renewable energy for later use.

With the falling cost of renewable energy and the scaling up of hydrogen deployment, hydrogen production costs are expected to fall by 30% by 2030. The increase in hydrogen energy storage technologies could lead to further reductions in the cost of variable renewable electricity systems.

The IPCC report also flags the potential of hydrogen in achieving emission reductions in the aviation sector, but notes that this will first require technology improvements and cost reductions.

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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