Sainsbury’s chief executive, Justin King, speaking at the Environment Agency conference today (November 9), said there was a ‘lack of skilled engineers’ to maintain technology like CO2 fridges.

He plans to switch to CO2 refrigeration technology in all stores by 2030 and has earmarked the first 135 stores for conversion by 2014.

Mr King said: “Fridges are by far and away the biggest source of CO2 emissions in any supermarket through both the energy required to power them and the refrigerants themselves.

“If all supermarkets in the UK switched to this sort of refrigeration, the reduction in CO2 emissions would amount to around 2m tonnes a year.

“A serious barrier preventing other companies from following our lead, is a lack of skilled engineers to build and maintain these units.

“We are doing our bit – this initiative will lead to 200 green jobs in the UK through the re-training and hiring of specialist engineers – but business alone can’t ensure a sufficient supply of people with the right skills and training.

“Government needs to seize the opportunity here by helping people re-train to work in the rapidly expanding green sector.

“We’d like to be in a place where we can use more home grown expertise to reduce UK carbon emissions in line with future targets, instead of looking to other countries for knowledge and innovation.”

In response to the announcement, Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist with Greenpeace UK, said: “F-gases are one of the lesser-known yet significant causes of climate change, and could grow into a huge problem.

“Sainsbury’s announcement of a timetabled phase-out of these dangerous chemicals is a signal that their removal is economically feasible as well as environmentally necessary.

“The leadership the company is showing on F-gases stands in stark contrast to our political leaders’ timid reluctance to be the first mover on anything – they must learn from this.”

Luke Walsh

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