Sustain has taken a keen interest in the rapidly accumulating evidence about the contribution of food and farming to climate change. These pages record recent activity on this issue. For enquiries about this material, contact Sustain's policy director, Kath Dalmeny, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sustain continues to participate in a number of initiatives in this area. In summary, during this quarter, Sustain:
- Participated in producing a report, Tackling Climate Change, Reducing Poverty, organised by Oxfam and the New Economics Foundation.
- Held an informal meeting in the autumn, on zero GHG farming, which has helped to shape some work by others, particularly some new research being commissioned by WWF-UK, in association with the Food Climate Research Network.
- Met with Friends of the Earth to discuss their important new campaign for sustainable feed for livestock. FoE argues that "Large-scale factory farming of meat and dairy is obliterating rainforests and must be tackled by Government investment in building a healthy British farming sector", see: http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/food_chain_09122008.html
- Is participating in the advisory group of an initiative being led by the National Trust and B&Q to encourage people to buy and grow more seasonal, UK fruit and veg, which should be launched in the Spring.
- Continues to work with Compassion in World Farming and the Soil Association to develop a campaign to reduce the risk to human health from antibiotic resistance.
On a separate but related issue, Sustain participated in a Food Climate Research Network consultation on experiences of video-conferencing to reduce carbon emissions from travel. Since introduction of Sustain's greener travel policy, Sustain's policy director Kath Dalmeny has given presentations in Tokyo, Canada and California without the need to travel.
Sustain's coordinator Jeanette Longfield chaired another Green New Deal meeting in September, and work continues among senior campaigners to develop a common message.
Sustain also continues to participate in an initiative hosted by nef and Oxfam to develop policies that simultaneously tackle social injustice and climate change.
The Greater London Authority commissioned a report on the climate impact of London's food system, but this is not yet published.
Summer 2008Party conference fringe meetings
Sustain was approached by the Climate Clinic coalition of campaign groups to become involved with their programmes of fringe meetings at party conferences. Sustain has decided to participate in the Climate Clinic this year as a trial. We are working with Friends of the Earth and the New Economics Foundation to organise events entitled: “Food prices: how high will they go?” The meetings will explore a range of issues that lead to rising food prices, including climate change, biofuels, consumption patterns and farming practices and will discuss how the current solutions being proposed would affect the environment, social justice and the economy.
Senior government and shadow ministers will participate, including Roger Williams MP, Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs; Hillary Benn MP, Secretary of State, Defra; and Peter Ainsworth MP, Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
A green new deal
Sustain's coordinator Jeanette Longfield was asked to chair a meeting on 17 and 18 July to discuss the New Economics Foundation (NEF) report (published on 21 July) called A Green New Deal Joined-up policies to solve the triple crunch of the credit crisis, climate change and high oil prices. The impressive range of senior campaigners present agreed to collaborate on a common message that could underpin the work of our respective organisations, emphasising how it helps to tackle the crises in the world’s climate, oil supplies and financial markets.
Climate change and social justice
Sustain has also been invited to participate in an initiative hosted by NEF and Oxfam to develop policies that simultaneously tackle social injustice and climate change (rather than leave the policy field clear for those who claim these objectives are incompatible). The first meeting took place in May, and Jeanette subsequently provided an article on food that, along with articles by others on, for example, home insulation, may contribute to a publication. Another meeting is scheduled for the end of July.
Spring 2008London's Climate Change Action Plan
Following Sustain policy director Kath Dalmeny’s earlier work with the Greater London Authority (GLA) climate change team, the GLA commissioned a report, which has now been drafted and discussed, on the greenhouse gas emissions associated with London’s food system. Kath attended a meeting on this report and also provided a written response to flesh out some of the details, particularly the policy implications. The report confirms that the greenhouse gas emissions associated with London’s food system are very considerable and the GLA will be reviewing its policy options on how to tackle these over the coming months.
Airfreight of food
Kath continues to give presentations at and attend a wide range of high level meetings on this issue, including with the Food Ethics Council, on what key messages civil society should send to supermarkets about tackling airfreight of food. She also attended the meeting, hosted at the Sustainable Development Commission, that she had helped to plan with the Food Climate Research Network and the Food and Drink Federation. The senior industry representatives present emphasised the need for financial and other incentives to encourage change, and for stronger leadership from government.
Radical change in the food system
A number of Sustain Council members and staff have recently engaged in a series of events where the urgency of the need for radical changes in the food and farming system has been, to an extent, acknowledged, but proposals for how this should be brought about have been lacking. Some events have not even been as promising as this and have, instead, made proposals for change that – at best – are too small in scale and piecemeal to lead to significant improvement or even, arguably, have a negative effect.
A recent report by WWF, Weathercocks and Signposts: The Environment Movement at a Crossroad (www.wwf.org.uk/strategiesforchange) argues that, while promoting small and painless steps by marketing ‘green consumption’ might lead to some small changes, there is little evidence that they lead people to make the more significant changes – like consuming less – that are actually needed. Worse, it argues that this approach deflects campaign efforts away from tackling the fundamental problems inherent in consumerism.
Winter 2007-08London's greenhouse gas footprint from food
We are pleased to report that the Greater London Authority (GLA) climate change team is now including food in London’s climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, following some persuasion from Sustain and others. The GLA and London Development Agency issued a tender for an assessment of ‘London’s Food Sector’s Carbon Footprint’. It will explore the greenhouse gas ‘hotspots’ in London’s food system, and where there is scope for the GLA to intervene to ‘cool’ them, including via links with the Mayoral Food Strategy Implementation Plan. Issues will include transport, waste, energy use, and the impact of diverse diets, and will cover sectors such as public procurement, the hospitality industry, small businesses and consumers (London residents and visitors). It will also consider the effects of the Olympics.
Sustainable Food Guidelines
Sustain's Sustainable Food Guidelines, with several sections relevant to mitigating climate change through action on food, have been launched on a new section of the Sustain website – with business and consumer versions and a summary for children. A consumer-oriented version of Sustain's Sustainable Food Guidelines is linked to from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/17_12_07_sustainguide.pdf. There is also a link to Sustain's home page and guidelines from the BBC's explanation of issues around sustainable food: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7121384.stm.
Food Climate Research Network
Sustain's deputy coordinator Kath Dalmeny attended a planning meeting with Tara Garnett of the Food Climate Research Network and Steve Reeson of the Food and Drink Federation. They discussed how to bring together senior industry representatives to ‘take stock’ and set priorities for policy and practice in tackling greenhouse gas hotspots in the UK food system.
New Zealand carbon footprint
Representatives from the New Zealand Defence Society met Kath in November to discuss their concerns about sustainable food standards being developed in the UK possibly excluding New Zealand produce – even if it is grown to high environmental standards. The Society is planning a conference later in the year, and Kath may participate remotely. Kath and Sustain's coordinator Jeanette Longfield also participated in an event jointly hosted by Defra and the Italian Embassy, exploring themes relating to sustainable food, carbon labelling, and sustainable agriculture. They promoted Sustain’s work on public procurement and sustainable food labelling and made several useful contacts.