Our planet is heating up dangerously and the food sector is contributing to climate change. This is no reason for any of us to cross our arms, says Sustain’s Sofia Parente.
Food production and consumption plays a huge role in climate change. Up to one third of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from food. Meat, notably beef, comes under particular scrutiny due to higher emissions from production compared to plant-sourced protein.
Sustain believes that a transition to better food and farming, which allows everyone to have access to a planet-friendly diet, is possible without giving up meat. If we used land more efficiently, there would be enough sustainably-produced food to feed the entire world population. In the UK, we are eating too much sugar, meat and ultra-processed food and not enough fresh fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and pulses. This is not good for our health or the planet.
What you can do
Everyone eats, so there are things we can each do to help make a positive change. For a start, you can buy local and cook more. Too much of what we eat is controlled by big corporations; according to a 2014 Oxfam report, if the world’s 10 biggest food and drink companies were a country, it would rank 25th in the global greenhouse emissions table! If you want to fight the tide of corporate control of our food system, choose local and ethical retailers and producers instead. You can also choose to eat less but better meat.
Tipping the balance
Away from Westminster, councils play an important role. Councils hold four big keys in the fight against climate change through food. They buy huge amounts of food for schools, care homes, nurseries, and staff canteens. They can support food businesses to transition to better practices. They collect and manage food waste. They also own and manage land that could be protected for good food production. If you want change to happen beyond your plate, contact your local councillors about these issues and pressure your council to do more.
Food for the planet
Despite their power to act on climate change, and the fact that three quarters of local authorities have declared a climate emergency, only about a third of places with a climate action plan mention food in a meaningful way. To fill this gap, Sustainable Food Places and Sustain launched the Food For the Planet campaign to help reduce the negative environmental impact of food through local action.
Is your borough taking action?
Find out what your local authority is doing to reduce food system GHG emissions in the Every Mouthful Counts report. And if they are not doing enough? Point them in the direction of the Food for the Planet toolkit.
Sustain will be releasing the Good Food For All Londoners report in March which will look in-depth at what London councils are doing to make healthy, sustainable and fair food affordable and accessible for citizens. You can find past reports here.
Live in London? Find out how your borough fared in the Every Mouthful Counts report here.
Published 9 Jan 2023
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