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Food, sustainability and climate change

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Presentation on theme: "Food, sustainability and climate change"— Presentation transcript:

1 Food, sustainability and climate change
Bronwen Jones Food and Farming Group Defra (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

2 The volume of the public debate on food has risen significantly over recent years…

3 Food in the UK A small, cold, wet, densely populated country producing around two thirds of our own food Most of the 37% of our food imports come from the EU Highly concentrated food retail, and highly efficient. Very diverse food industry with a wide range of businesses Spend around £170bn annually on food (11% of household spending) Food sector provides over 3 million UK jobs

4 Why are we concerned about food?
Food has a significant impact on health and wellbeing, both positive and negative This activity has significant environmental impacts And requires a lot of land, water, energy and other resources By 2050 there may be 9bn people to feed globally, from the same amount of resources and land Food price rises last year showed that it is a potentially explosive issue in developing countries, and even in the UK we cannot take the availability and affordability of food for granted.

5 And food has cultural significance ...

6 The impacts of most concern are environment and health
The Environmental impacts of product groups across EU-25 By 2050, it is expected that 60% of Britons will be obese % men and women obese, England, 2007

7 Greenhouse gas emissions from food are primarily a production issue
Methane emissions from ruminants (Methane has over 20 times greater impact on climate change than CO2) Nitrous oxide from fertiliser and soils (which is over 300 times more potent than CO2) Energy from transport, processing, cooking and refrigeration Leaking refrigerant gases Methane from landfill as waste food decomposes.

8 Some widely held views on food and the environment
There’s far too much packaging! Better labelling is the answer Businesses are responsible for environmental damage, not consumers Food miles is the most important thing – local food is best

9 Food miles are not a good indicator of environmental impact
Features strongly in public perception of food’s environmental impact, and in media coverage/advice, but is not a significant indicator of the total environmental impact For most foods, transport isn’t the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions Air Freight Defra research found that only £40m of the £9bn external costs associated with food transport were attributable to air transport (though it is increasing) If a consumer drives 3.5 miles to the supermarket and back, they have contributed as much to climate change as buying a pack of air freighted beans.

10 Packaging can be excessive, but it has advantages too
Unnecessary packaging seen by consumers as an area where business and government need to act, but much packaging is there to protect the food and reducing it would lead to increased waste or food safety problems

11 Consumers are responsible for most of the food waste, and a significant amount of transport impacts
Waste levels in the retail and production chain account for about 10% of all industrial and commercial waste But the real villains are consumers. UK research by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) shows that a third of all food purchased ends up as waste, of which half could have been eaten The embedded greenhouse gas emissions in that waste are equivalent to taking one in five cars off the road in the UK WRAP launched a media campaign last year to raise awareness of this, and get consumers to waste less food.

12 Labelling can help but is unlikely to drive change
people spend an average of 30 seconds selecting a product EU Food Information Council, November 2008 Do people understand carbon units? Can they make realistic comparisons and trade offs?

13 What’s happening in the UK?
Defra’s food chain programme PAS2050 Projects on agriculture and climate change Voluntary action by the sector (FDF, Courtauld, etc) Climate Change Act and statutory carbon budgets

14 The Food Chain Programme 2007-2009
In two years we hope to have… A sound evidence base: how do we put these complex messages into policy and public communication? A shared understanding by Government and stakeholders of what a sustainable food chain looks like Government and industry are motivated and incentivised to move to more sustainable practices Consumers are clear how they can reduce the impact of their food consumption The UK leads international thinking and action – taking the PAS to the EU and beyond ‘to reduce the global impact of UK food consumption and production’


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