Market Reports

A sustainable trajectory of coffee roasting

The draft of the Fifth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), leaked last December, gave little wiggle room for climate change sceptics. Published online by Alec Rawls – himself a climate change sceptic who volunteered to review the draft – the report builds on past papers that use scientific evidence and modelling to strengthen the links between man-made carbon emissions and climate change. “Multiple lines of evidence show that the climate is changing across our planet, largely as a result of human activities,” the draft states.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) both get a mention in the introduction, as their levels of concentration in the atmosphere are measured and observed to detect pollution caused by human activity. These gasses have another thing in common: they are both an unfortunate by-products of coffee production. Methane is mainly an issue at origin, produced in the fermentation process of coffee beans. At the coffee production level, CO2 has long been on the radar. If it haven’t in the past, reports like this will see them the radar in the very near future. While few regulations apply directly to coffee roasters, most developed nations have national and regional regulations that are applicable to industry emissions. Laws apply to CO2 and NOx emissions, as well as smells emitting from factories, among other aspects. For some countries, these laws stem back for decades. For instance in Germany, the Technische Anleitung zur Reinhaltung der Luft (Technical Instructions on Air Quality Control or TA Luft) was first established in 1964, ten years before the fundamental law for the protection against air pollution was established as the Federal Environmental Protection Law of 1974, according to a government paper by Prof D. Ubing and Dr L. Kropp. The regulation covers the performance of licensing procedures for every plant, with emission standards that must be met and modern technologies applied. The law has been amended several times since it’s been set up, setting out stricter emissions and output guidelines, while also extending the application of the law to different plant types. At the European Union level, although no specific regulations apply to coffee roasters, the European Commission’s (EC) Sarah Trioni points to the potential application of a report published in September 2012 looking at industrial and laboratory furnaces and ovens. The report was compiled by the EC’s Integrity Unit in association with the Bio Intelligence Service. The report notes that industrial and laboratory furnaces and ovens consume large amounts of energy, most of which in the European Union is derived from fossil fuel. As such, this range of equipment should be considered as “significant emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG), most commonly carbon dioxide via fuel’s combustion”. The definition of this equipment falls close to coffee roasting equipment, as “a device whose primary function is to apply heat to the interior of an enclosed chamber to achieve at least 90 degrees Celsius internally”. The report points out that while there are many European, national and other standards that affect industrial and laboratory furnaces, very few are concerned with energy consumption or efficiency. The report notes that an initial estimate of potential energy savings, with newer technologies replacing standard designs, could be as much of 100 terawatt-hours per year, the equivalent of around 30 per cent of the United Kingdom’s annual electricity consumption. The report notes that much larger energy savings could eventually be achieved by replacing a large number of old, inefficient furnaces in the European Union. The report’s recommendations include a policy that would see the full implementation of minimum energy performance standards over three tiers, with the first tier coming into play as early as 2014. In enforcing these standards, these policies fall in line with the European Union’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption by 2035. To help achieve this goal, Europe first introduced a cap and trade system, the EU ETS, in 2005, limiting the amount of GHG that can be emitted in factories, power plants and other installation systems. Companies can receive emission allowances, which they can then sell or buy from one another as needed. Over the Atlantic Ocean, the United States has been more reluctant to commit to reducing emissions. California has taken the lead in terms of emissions reductions, committing into law a plan to reduce GHG to 1990 levels by 2020, then by an additional 80 per cent by 2050. California recently joined forces with its French neighbour to the north, Quebec, in actioning their concerns of climate change with a joint cap-and-trade system to create a carbon market in North America. The US state and Canadian province announced in December that they planned their first joint auction of emission allowances for August 2013. California already has some tough emissions regulations in place, supervised by the South Air Quality Management District (AQMD), with codes applying to coffee roasting equipment on the emission of CO2.   Advancements in reducing emissions have been slower to come in developing markets. With the man-made emissions of climate change stemming back to the industrial era, developing nations, including powerhouse China, are reluctant to commit to cut on a problem they don’t see themselves as having caused. The most recent international climate change talks in Doha were widely criticised for having achieved little except for extending the world’s only climate change treaty, the Kyoto Protocol. This is not to say that companies in developing countries have a ‘wild card’ for polluting. In Vietnam, the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment warned that fines would be quadrupled to over US$95,000 to serious polluters. China is said to be adopting similar air ‘smell’ laws to the United States, where complaints against companies emitting smog or smells will be actioned. With looser emissions laws, however, a main driving factor in these countries will undoubtedly be power supplies. Even where power is cheaper, usage quotas is a driving factor for companies to keep energy usage down, as are tight profit margins. All this to say, reducing power consumption and emissions is undoubtedly a global trend, and one that coffee roasting equipment manufacturers are quickly picking up on. In the following Special Feature in Global Coffee Review, we highlight six companies who are leading the way towards sustainable roasting equipment. GCR

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