Why it matters:
We need healthy and nutritious food to live but some aspects of our food systems are putting an unsustainable strain on the environment. Food production contributes towards climate change mainly through the release of methane (from livestock) and nitrous oxide (from fertilisers), gases which increase the ‘greenhouse effect’.
Our current levels of meat, dairy, and fish consumption are unsustainable due to the amount of land, feed and water required for livestock, levels of greenhouse gas emissions released, and the strains that intensive agriculture puts onto our soils and rivers.
The amount of food that is wasted in the production and supply of food – and within the home – is also concerning. In the UK, wethrow away 7 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year, the majority of which could have been eaten. This not only represents a loss of food but also of the water, energy and time invested in growing and transporting those resources.
Climate change may increase the frequency and severity of flooding and droughts which in turn threatens food security. Pests and pollinators may migrate to more habitable areas as temperatures increase, resulting in changes to which crops survive.
Farmers and consumers may need to adapt to growing and eating different foods to cope with a changing climate and seasons. Farming systems may need to grow different foods, increase farm diversity, and/or grow indoors.
Farming makes a huge contribution to our economy; many people and communities depend upon food production and supply for sustainable livelihoods. These stakeholders will need to be supported to make necessary adaptations.
Agriculture has the potential to provide an environmentally supportive role as grasslands and farmland trees can sequester carbon and support biodiversity.
What the public sector is doing:
World / Europe:
To help people understand how climate change will impact upon farmers internationally and how farms can mitigate their risks the FAO has produced this animation.
There will be a new Agriculture Act after the UK leaves the European Union.
Welsh Government has produced a report on ‘Land Management in Wales post-Brexit’.
What the third sector is doing:
Centre for Alternative Technology – offers short courses and postgraduate training in sustainable food
FareShare Cymru – works to fight food poverty by tackling food waste. It takes surplus edible food from the food and drink industry that would otherwise be thrown away and redistributes it to organisations in Wales that feed people in need.
Food Cardiff – works with all sorts of people and organisations – from schools and restaurants to local charities and the Council – giving advice and support to help them make informed decisions about food.
Food Foundation – Peas Please– aims to bring together farmers, retailers, fast food and restaurant chains, caterers, processors and government departments with a common goal of making it easier for everyone to eat veg. This in turn has associated health and climate benefits.
Food Manifesto Wales – aims to identify actions the Welsh Government could take to create a better food system.
Love Food Hate Waste – citizen-facing campaign that aims to raise awareness of the need to reduce food waste and help us all take action. It shows that by doing some easy, practical everyday things in the home we can all waste less food, which will ultimately benefit our purses and the environment too.
MSC Good Fish Guide – find out which fish are considered more or less ‘sustainable’.
Sustainable Food Trust – ‘Hidden Cost of UK Food’ – report finds that UK citizens pay twice as much for food as they realise.
Woodland Trust – ‘Sustainable Land Management‘ – report suggests actions to incorporate into a sustainable land management policy in line with the aspirations of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.
WWF – Eating for 2 Degrees – report which looks at what we need to eat between now and 2030 to meet our Paris Agreement commitments.
Zero Carbon Britain – guide to sustainable future of food in the UK.
How you can make a difference:
Reduce your intake of high carbon foods like meat and dairy by substituting with plant-based alternatives.
Shop locally and in season where possible, if you have a garden or allotment consider growing fruits and vegetables which may otherwise need to be imported.