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Welcome to the UNIDO Montreal Protocol Newsletter

Welcome to the latest issue of the newsletter. Recently, the Netherlands government has warned people to stop children and pets swallowing foam from the seawater at the beach near Scheveningen, after a study showed “forever chemicals” were concentrated in the spume.

In France, in the commune of Pierre Bénite traces of persistent chemicals have been found in fish, breast milk and eggs. In February 2023, a survey carried out by eighteen European media agencies identified 17,000 contaminated sites in Europe and the United Kingdom, including 2,100 at levels dangerous to health, usually near old factories. More and more studies are coming out with the dangerous consequences of these forever chemicals, also called ‘PFAS’. The fluorinated gases, we use in the refrigeration and air conditioning (RAC) sector are also a part of this PFAS problem.

To address this, we spoke to Professor Michael Kauffeld from the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences in Germany. He explains the PFAS issues, especially those pertaining to the refrigeration and air conditioning sector.  

To commemorate the Women’s Day, we profile Omarly Acevedo, one of UNIDO’s women engineers in the RAC sector in the Latin America region. She shares insights from her life and her experiences on leading an award-winning refrigerant conversion project in Ecuador, in our Ask UNIDO section.

UNIDO’s Montreal Protocol Division (MPD) works tirelessly to promote climate friendly policies. Our feature story explains the conversion of a cold chain installation from the aquaculture sector in Chile, leading to improved energy efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions.

Test your knowledge in the quiz section compiled by Luka Šolić former intern at our division and have a look at our notice board. It features some of our main events—a study tour by the National Ozone unit Nigeria team to South Korea. Other reports include those on refrigerated trucks from The Philippines, and UNIDO securing  US$ 23 million funding from The Multilateral Fund.

If you have any questions, please write to us and we will try to answer in our forthcoming issues. Please like and follow our social media channels—LinkedIn and Facebook.  

Happy Reading.  

Your MPD Team  

ASK UNIDO

Omarly Acevedo

Omarly Acevedo

International expert on Refrigeration, UNIDO’s Montreal Protocol division

shares insights from her life and experiences on leading an award-winning project in Ecuador.

 

 

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INTERVIEW

Michael Kauffeld

Michael Kauffeld

Speaker of the Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Environmental Engineering, Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences, Germany

explains the challenges of ‘Forever Chemicals’ also called PFAS in ‘Looking beyond forever chemicals: towards a ‘natural’ solution?

 

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FEATURE ARTICLE

Jayaraj Manepalli

Jayaraj Manepalli

Communications Expert at UNIDO

writes on how UNIDO’s project supported Chile’s journey towards eco- friendly cooling and sustainable aquaculture in the Patagonia region.

 

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QUIZ - Did you know?​

Test your knowledge!​

Compiled by Luka Šolić

What is the principal goal of the Global Methane Pledge and what does it aim to reach by 2030?

To keep global warming within the 1.5˚C threshold by intensely decreasing methane emissions. By 2030, the Pledge aims to reduce methane emissions by 30%
More info

The 35th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol agreed on a record budget for the period between 2024 and 2026. What is the amount of the agreed budget for the given period?

USD$ 965 million.
More info

What is considered the biggest contributor to PFAS pollution in Europe?

The use of fluorinated greenhouse gases.
More info

What is the solution offered to address the challenges of PFAS in the RAC and the foam sector?

Use of natural refrigerants.
More info

NOTICE BOARD

Spotlight

UNIDO Climate Action: Secures US$ 23 million funding from Multilateral Fund for Montreal Protocol Projects in 41 countries to benefit in their fight against climate change.

Social Media

A study team from Nigeria’s National Ozone Unit visited South Korea to learn and share the experiences and strategies for implementing the Kigali Amendment.

Events

A handing-over ceremony of refrigeration trucks and a shipping container, which use natural refrigerants, took place in The Philippines.

ASK UNIDO

Regina Vellmer

You Ask, We Answer!​

Omarly Acevedo, International expert on Refrigeration and one of UNIDO’s women engineers in the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (RAC) sector in the Latin America region

Congratulations on winning the 2023 ASHRAE–UNEP Lower GWP Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Innovation Award for the project in Ecuador. We at UNIDO and the Montreal Protocol (MP) Division are proud that you successfully led this project. Can you explain the beginnings of how the project materialized?

Thank you. The project in Ecuador is a demonstration project on the use of hydrocarbons as refrigerants—these have a very low Global Warming Potential (GWP). The National Ozone Unit (NOU) and UNIDO contacted firms in the flower sector and a firm called Utopia Farms was selected. It was storing flowers in its refrigeration centre, to keep them fresh for export.

In Ecuador, some of the challenges include lack of technical capacity in the servicing companies, difficulties in procuring equipment and spare parts for R- 290 (Propane) based systems, lack of defined standards for the application of this natural refrigerant substances and the general fear. Therefore, our project took into consideration all these challenges, yet wanted to demonstrate the viability and application of the environmentally friendly technology.

How did the project move forward in such a situation? What are the key points one should remember when transitioning to a low-GWP refrigerant in the cold storage plant? What kind of challenges did you face and how did you address them?  

Introducing Propane as a refrigerant was an innovation in Ecuador, where Hydrochloroflourocarbon (HCFC) and Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants are widely used. Since Propane is a flammable gas, a leak detection method and a rigorous analysis to identify ignition sources and eliminate them was required to ensure the safety of the facility. Low-GWP and natural refrigerants have a safety condition that requires proper handling to minimize risks. Once that is addressed, we can take advantage of their great benefits at the energy and thermodynamic level.

UNIDO conducted the initial diagnostics at the Utopia Farms’ facility and determined that it complies with the safety requirements of using Propane, after making some modifications. The analysis confirmed that in the event of a refrigerant leak, it did not exceed the prescribed limit. We also analyzed the ignition sources, which were eliminated.

Omarly Acevedo, inspecting the equipment at one of the project sites

The project faced several challenges: the lack of trained personnel for the safe handling of the R-290. This was overcome with the support of UNIDO expert, Fernando del Castillo, who trained the technicians, including those from the company that carried out the change of refrigerant, the installation of the compressors, setting up and starting the RAC system and the unavailability of compressors and sensors in the country. 

To overcome the psychological barrier of using a flammable refrigerant, Utopia Farms laid down an emergency and contingency plan in the event of a refrigerant leak and made this plan known to their staff. The cold room has an audible and visual alarm that is activated by a R-290 sensor.

Thermodynamic analysis and a rigorous energy consumption monitoring was done before and after adjusting the system and changing the refrigerant. The TEWI (Total Equivalent Warming Impact) from a life cycle approach was calculated.

How was the support from the government and the business firm when this project was launched? Did the businesses see the potential of the new technology, given the energy savings and CO2 emission reductions?

Due to the advantages of the new technology, Utopia Farms’ Maintenance Manager Miguel Caicedo, supported this initiative since its inception. Even though the company was interested in replacing the equipment with R-290 in all its new projects, the market response was not as quick as anticipated, by way of availability of the equipment and spares.

The benefits obtained through the transition to Propane-based system are both economic and environmental. At a thermodynamic level, HCFC-22 and HC-290 have a similar performance, but a better result was obtained with HC-290 in terms of temperatures, pressures and increase of the coefficient of performance (COP) by around 20%.

In addition, there was a 36% reduction in energy consumption, according to Utopia Farms’ monitoring. The impact on the ozone layer goes from 4.20 kg Ozone Depleting Potential (ODP) to zero, and CO2 equivalent emissions were reduced by 41%. This would represent a return on investment for the company in less than 5 years, an attractive proposition for any company.

Omarly Acevedo, along with the team at one of the project sites

The government Ministry and the NOU, have widely disseminated the results obtained from the project, and have contacted different industrial associations to replicate the project. Likewise, it has continued to strengthen the capacities of RAC technicians on the safe handling of flammable refrigerants, and large servicing companies have been sensitized and trained.

Are you also involved with other UNIDO projects in the Latin America region? What kind of challenges does the region face in the field of RAC?

I support UNIDO in the implementation of the MP projects in Latin America—both in monitoring and supporting the formulation of projects related to the HPMP, and technically, supporting the training of technicians in the safe use of flammable refrigerants and promote good refrigeration practices. I was involved in many UNIDO’s projects led by Project Manager Rodrigo Serpa in Ecuador, Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

On the challenges faced by the region, I think barriers to adopting natural refrigerants vary according to the actors involved. In case of the large end-users, high upfront costs, a shortage of trained technicians, final disposal of refrigerant and cylinder waste, and a lack of performance data are some issues. For the servicing sector, it is the lack of knowledge and availability of local training centres for training, in addition to the high cost of tools and equipment for natural refrigerants.

At an institutional level, the lack of safety standards is a challenge. For the countries, it is prudent to consider how the safety standards can be formulated and implemented on the ground. Absence of standardization for low-GWP technologies can make their safe installation and use, a challenge. UNIDO, as the lead implementing agency of the MP, continues to work to support the countries in overcoming these barriers. There have been many achievements, but much remains to be done.

Did you get encouragement/support from your family to become an engineer in the RAC sector? Are there many women engineers/technicians in the Latin America region?

I grew up in Pereira, Risaralda, Colombia. When a friend advised me to study Mechanical Engineering at the University, my family and friends said that it was a career for men. This challenged and motivated me more–to study it. Later I was accepted at the Technological University of Pereira, where I graduated with a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, specializing in Energy Efficiency and Financial Administration. I loved thermodynamics and everything related to thermals signatures, including refrigeration and air conditioning. When I was studying, there were very few women in my field, but all of them were excellent students who turned out to be successful professionals.

The path has its challenges, I do not think it is because of my being a woman technician, but sometimes it feels that way, because this is a sector where men predominate. I have been fortunate to collaborate and work with wonderful people who have believed in me and have given me the opportunity to support them in their projects. Likewise, I thank the authorities of each country where I worked, who have given me the opportunity to support them in their projects, and I especially highlight Ecuador with whom we have had great achievements, like the Utopia Farms project.

What is your advice for young women who want to pursue a career in the field of refrigeration, air conditioning and energy efficiency?

To young women and female colleagues, I would say that with passion and preparation anything is possible. As I mentioned, it is a sector in which I would never have imagined working, but after knowing it in depth, I know that you can obtain a lot of satisfaction, and you can also have a decent financial remuneration.  I am a witness to many success stories and I love what I do. I hope to continue and grow in this profession. My children and the planet motivate me. Thank you for the opportunity.

INTERVIEW

Laura Berón

Interview

Professor Michael Kauffeld , is the speaker of the Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Environmental Engineering, Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences, Germany.

Looking Beyond Forever Chemicals: Towards a ‘Natural’ Solution?

Professor Michael Kauffeld is the speaker of the Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Environmental Engineering, Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences, Germany.

He has worked on a variety of development projects within the field of refrigeration since 1986. As a professor, Michael continues his research on natural refrigerants, micro channel heat exchangers and ice slurry. Most of his over 30 research projects at Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences were in close cooperation with small and medium sized companies.  

Since 1997, he serves on the UNEP Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heat Pumps Technical Options Committee and served on the UNEP TEAP Task Force on Global Warming. Michael Kauffeld has written over 100 scientific publications and filed several patents. In this issue, he speaks to us about persistent chemicals, especially those pertaining to the refrigeration and air conditioning sector.  

Thank you very much Prof. Michael. Can you tell us a bit, about the ‘persistent’ or ‘forever’ chemicals? Which industries use them and are they harmful to our environment?

‘Forever’ chemicals is a name given to a group of over 12,000 different substances which are used in numerous products that we use in our daily life—starting from non-stick cooking pans, water-proof garments, smartphone displays, jet engines, medical devices, cosmetics, refrigeration equipment, semi-conductors and chips—the list is exhaustive.

These chemicals, poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances – also known as PFAS—have strong carbon-fluorine bonds that do not break down and degrade naturally when they are released in the environment but contaminate food, feed and drinking water wherever they are used. They enter the environment either during their production processes, leaks or at end of the product’s lifecycle.

Studies have shown that PFASs have contaminated drinking water and soils in Europe and the US. The rainwater, rivers and lakes in some regions had high levels of PFASs—leading to their discovery in leaves, grass and pastures, fishes and seafood, poultry and eggs, animals and humans. Scientists have found a link to these chemicals with cancer, liver problems, neurological disorders, thyroid issues, birth defects, kidney disease, decreased immunity and other serious health problems.

How did we come to use these PFAS chemicals in the industry, especially in the field of refrigeration and air conditioning? Why were they presented as alternatives?

The answer to this began 150 years ago in the early days of manmade refrigeration. Natural refrigerants like ammonia, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons and water were used successfully for more decades at the beginning of twentieth century. First, the availability of fluorinated compounds like the Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), brought fridges and air conditioning to the masses—primarily because of their non-toxic and non-flammable nature. The CFCs were also used widely in aerosol spray canisters until the Montreal protocol treaty entered into force in 1987. One of the largest sources of PFAS emissions nowadays comprises the light fluorocarbon gases. Their main application is as refrigerants.

After the pioneering work by scientists Mario Molina and Sherwood Rowland and the discovery of a ‘hole’ in the ozone layer, mainly attributed to the CFCs, the Montreal Protocol Treaty came into force, which banned such substances. This was a global effort involving all stakeholders and within a few decades, we could observe now that the ozone layer is healing.

The industry came out with other synthetic alternatives like the HCFCs and HFCs as alternatives to the CFCs, and more recently, Hydroflouroolefins (HFOs) as alternatives to the HFCs. However, these were still found to be harming the environment. The HFCs did not destroy the ozone layer but were and still are causing global warming. The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol seeks to address this issue by regulating the HFCs and phasing them down. Most HFO’s have trifluoroacetic acid (TFA) as the atmospheric breakdown product. TFA, a PFAS[1], is persistent, i.e. remains in water for thousands of years eventually potentially contaminating our groundwater. Although the TFA has not been linked to any health issue so far, its accumulation warrants concern, because of the extraordinary difficulty in removing TFA from water. Especially, because of TFA’s persistence. Once in the water, TFA will remain there for thousands of years accumulating over time. One should not create environment problems while addressing climate problems. Therefore, there is a strong inclination to return to the natural refrigerants.

If non-fluorinated (natural) refrigerants are considered as a solution to the problem of PFAS, what are the advantages and challenges when we switch to natural refrigerants? Any points to consider when making the transition to pave way for sustainable solutions?

Natural refrigerants offer a lower environmental impact from direct emissions. They also offer additional indirect emission reductions through the increased energy efficiency compared to the conventional HFC technologies. Even their manufacturing releases much less CO2 equivalent emissions – more than ten times less. Transitioning to natural refrigerants might prove expensive, but considering the overall gains made by energy efficiency, they are viable and sustainable in the end. I can give an example of a brewery in Germany, which moved away from Ammonia, which they were using for decades. They switched to the fluorine-based refrigerant (HFO) as it was a cheaper option for the firm. However, the overall energy usage costs turned out to be higher by about 30 percent!

There are challenges faced while considering natural refrigerants such as ammonia, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons and water. The fluorine free refrigerant option hydrocarbons are flammable. Special precautions should be taken while handling flammable refrigerants. Carbon dioxide as a refrigerant may suffer from efficiency losses in hot weather. Ammonia is toxic at very low concentrations and water requires very low pressures. However, any of these challenges are much easier dealt with than TFA in our fresh water reservoirs. A regular cosmetic/drug store for example has enough propane in the aerosol spray canisters that the total number will be alarming to those who are concerned about flammability of the natural refrigerants. A hair spray can of 65 grams contains 70 % propane, 18 % n-Butane, 12 % Isobutane, while  a recharging can for lighters more than twice this amount. Yet, it is considered safe to have all these spray cans in the shop.

Unfortunately, there is no single natural alternative that can replace the HFCs in all applications, just as there is no single HFC refrigerant or HFO that could be used in all applications. Each country should customize their plans according to their specific situations. We should not only look for refrigerants with low GWP, but also choose the ones that are not leading to dangerous degradation. Alternative refrigerants should be halogen-free, avoiding thus the formation of PFASs.

If natural refrigerants are the solution to the problem of PFASs, there is a widespread concern on the flammability of these gases. Unless proper training is offered, the natural refrigerants cannot be promoted as a solution, especially in poorer countries where there is a lack of skilled technicians. How can we address this issue?

Providing proper training to the technicians is a key issue. One of the easiest solutions I can think of is ensuring that the refrigeration technicians are assigned with gas technicians too. This way, the flammability issues and the precautions to be taken are addressed.

This issue need not be a  ‘mission impossible’ that we should be overly concerned about. A one-page advice with some easy to remember precautions and checklists in bullet points is sufficient in most applications in developing countries. For places where technicians cannot or do not want to read, instructive videos should be produced. We must ensure that all technicians are provided with that advice and are aware of the risks and safety precautions while handling natural refrigerants.

Infographic: European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) https://echa.europa.eu/675ud4

What are the recent developments in addressing the PFAS issue?

Placing a robust legislation in place is always the best way to deal with PFAS. The European Chemicals Agency – ECHA is working in this regard. Owing to their large number of PFAS chemicals, the EU is following a grouping approach, classifying them into major categories.

Five member-states of the European Union—Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Sweden have proposed restrictions on PFASs. They are currently holding consultations on banning PFASs in the EU. The current discussions should also focus on transition times and the restriction options, based on the identified risks. One should of course look into the socio-economic aspect of the problem before attempting to find a viable solution. In March 2023, The United States announced the upcoming introduction of standards to limit the level in running water.

What direction should the international community, states or UNIDO aim for?

I recollect the 1996 International Institute of Refrigeration (IIR) conference on natural refrigerants, held in Aarhus, Denmark. The Danish Minister for the environment Svend Auken who gave the opening remarks said, “I know that not everybody in the refrigeration industry is equally delighted with my prediction that we no longer use HFC’s or other potent greenhouse gases in 10 years’ time. Things were much the same ten years ago when we started discussions on outlawing CFCs. But once again I hope that we can rely on the Danish model of co-operation between the industry and our environmental authorities.” Auken said, “I believe, in the foreseeable future, that natural cooling agents will entirely replace their synthetic and environmentally more hazardous counterparts.” Something very forward looking in 1996.

Even though the Industry presented HFCs as the solution to the existing problems at that time, the Minister hoped that the fluorinated chemicals be done away within the next ten years. He envisaged a return to natural refrigerants at the time when many in the industry predicted their demise. As more scientific evidence comes to the forefront, the international community and all the stakeholders should continue working together towards a safer environment, just as they did with Montreal Protocol to address ozone depletion. Proper legislation is the only way to address the challenge of PFAS.

Ole Nielsen, Chief of UNIDO’s Montreal Protocol division adds:

UNIDO is mandated with promoting and enabling sustainable industrialization. However, sustainability does not mean replacing one environmental issue with another problem. The demand for cooling appliances is estimated to grow to 4 billion devices by 2030. We should wherever possible avoid refrigerants that lead to PFAS/TFA and apply environment friendly, natural solutions for a healthy future.

[1] According to the OECD (2021), PFASs are defined as fluorinated substances that contain at least one fully fluorinated methyl or methylene carbon atom (without any H/Cl/Br/I atom attached to it), i.e. with a few noted exceptions, any chemical with at least a perfluorinated methyl group (–CF3) or a perfluorinated methylene group (–CF2–) is a PFAS.

FURTHER RESOURCES:

FEATURE ARTICLE

Dingding Shao

Feature Article

Jayaraj Manepalli, Communications expert at UNIDO writes on how UNIDO’s project supported Chile’s journey towards eco- friendly cooling and sustainable aquaculture in the Patagonia region.

Eco-Friendly Refrigeration: On the Aquaculture Highway

QUELLÓN, CHILE: Apart from the breath-taking natural landscapes, the Patagonia region is home to a diverse geographical landscape—from mountains, lakes and fjords to deserts and temperate rainforests. The Chilean Patagonia, which is on the western part, also has a diverse ecosystem. Quellón is also the starting point of the 30,000 km long Pan-American highway, which traverses through a varied landscape.

The interior waters of Los Lagos Region in the south, especially the Chiloé province are famous for the Chilean aquaculture industry—thanks to the cool Humboldt currents that make it an ideal place, especially for salmonids, comprising of salmon, trout, char and other fishes.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Aquaculture has great potential to address the challenges of hunger and nutrition—by feeding and nourishing the world’s growing population. Aquaculture is projected to supply almost two-thirds of the fish people eat by 2030. However, the growth of the sector must be sustainable.

Chilean Aquaculture

Beginning in the 1970s, the industrial-scale salmon aquaculture has grown rapidly to make Chile the world’s second-largest producer of farmed salmon today, with exports totalling US$6.47 billion in 2023, according to Chile’s Central Bank. Chile exports primarily to the United States, Japan and Brazil. Numerous fish farms of various sizes operate in the region, many with advanced logistical infrastructure, to supply fresh aquatic foods to foreign markets and providing direct employment to over 40,000 people (FAO, 2022).

Salmon being processed at the Marine Farm’s facility at Quellón in Chile. Pic: Marine Farm/National Ozone Unit, Chile.

One of the critical components in the Salmon production chain is the availability of hygienic refrigeration facilities. This is essential for supplying fresh aquatic foods to foreign markets via airfreight routes. The quality of the refrigeration facility depends numerous factors—the use of a particular refrigerant gas, handling of the gases, availability of handling facilities, etc. among others.

Eco-friendly cooling

The industry was using refrigerants that were harmful if released into the environment. Chile’s Ministry of Environment, National Ozone Unit and UNIDO launched a project to demonstrate the use of natural refrigerants in the fisheries food chain sector. A company called Marine Farms, which is involved in aquaculture from ‘egg production, processing to the final production’ was chosen from the region for the project.

Rodrigo Serpa, UNIDO’s Project Manager and other officials at the inauguration of the Marine Farm’s facility at Quellón in Chile.

Marine Farms has a freezing capacity of 160 tons fish a day and cold storage capacity of 450 tons. “Their three condensing units in the production area were based on Freon gas (R 22), a synthetic refrigerant that damages the Ozone layer when it leaks or gets released into the atmosphere. Added to this was the problem of energy efficiency and oversized units. The facility also suffered from high leakage of the refrigerant due to its location by the sea—exposed to a high corrosive environment,” explained Rodrigo Serpa, UNIDO’s Project Manager.

Transition to ‘natural’

Ammonia is one of the natural refrigerant gases, which is environmental-friendly and does not damage the ozone layer or contribute to global warming. The conversion project, where Ammonia replaced Freon using installed capacity, was designed by a local company Sofrisur. The project was implemented in record time, with the installation of 10 secondary refrigerant evaporators and all the requirements for the extension and safety completed. The systems became operational before the end of 2023.

“The use of natural refrigeration within the different economic sectors of the country is advancing by leaps and bounds and in line with Chile’s commitments to the Montreal Protocol. This new system supports food safety processes by maintaining cold chains and becomes a reference for the industry, by showing that it is possible to have production processes with clean and efficient technologies.” Claudia Paratori, the National Ozone Officer explained.

Salmon being processed at the Marine Farm’s facility at Quellón in Chile. Pic: Marine Farm/National Ozone Unit, Chile.

Taking the eco-friendly highway

“As a result of this transition, Marine Farms managed to mitigate the emission of 1.23 million kg of CO2 eq., a significant step towards reducing its carbon footprint. Additionally, it joined the carbon footprint management registry of Huella Chile, demonstrating a continued commitment to mitigating climate change and implementing sustainable practices,” according to Patricio Albornoz, Engineer responsible for the project.

“The immediate benefit was the reduction in energy consumption by 10% in the facilities,” said Rodrigo Serpa. UNIDO is committed to promoting sustainable industrial development and transition to climate-friendly alternatives, even in remote places. We should go beyond with our projects and interventions, because one of UNIDO’s priority areas is climate action, he added.

Read this story on UNIDO’s website

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