Food, farming and fishing groups declare ‘climate and nature emergency’

An alliance of food, farming and fishing organisations has today called for decisive national action to avert catastrophic climate change and alarming loss of biodiversity. 

Photo credit: Miles Willis

Photo credit: Miles Willis

The Sustain alliance is calling on government, businesses and investors to step up to the challenge of the climate and nature emergency, using regulation and incentives to shift the whole system in a way that makes climate- and nature-friendly food normal, accessible and affordable for everyone. They are calling on the government to use the raft of new food, farming, fishing, environment and trade policy necessitated by Brexit to create the conditions for farming, land use and trade that provide a sustainable supply of healthy food for everyone, achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions and restoring nature, whilst also minimising our global impact.

How and what we farm and fish, eat and throw away are some of the biggest contributors to dangerous climate change and the alarming loss of biodiversity. In the UK, over 70% of the land area is used for farming, over 30% of greenhouse gas emissions arise from the food system and a third of the food we produce goes to waste. Intensive farming and fishing practices are the main drivers of biodiversity loss on land and at sea. This also offers substantial potential for large-scale and systematic solutions, so action on food, farming and fishing are among the key ways to avert climate change and restore nature. 

Vicki Hird, coordinator of Sustain’s sustainable farming campaign, said:

“Our country is at an absolutely pivotal moment for food, farming and the natural environment. The UK is adopting a raft of new policy and legislation that will lay the foundations for how we address the crises in climate and nature. We must use the opportunities of the new Agriculture Bill, Fisheries Bill, Environment Bill, Environmental Land Management Scheme and National Food Strategy to make systematic moves towards regenerative and fair farming, land use and a food system that helps restore the ability of our planet to sustain us.”

Ruth Westcott, coordinator of Sustain’s sustainable fish campaign, said:

“In 2019, we are proud that caterers serving over 900 million meals per year have now signed up to our Sustainable Fish pledge, using the power of buying to improve prospects for fish stocks, good fishing livelihoods and the marine environment. But it has taken 10 years to get to this remarkable level of achievement, and the pace of change is simply not fast enough, held up by poor policy, patchy data and lack of investment in sustainable fisheries. Progressive caterers have shown it is possible to remove endangered species and products from damaging fishing practices from our menus. Now we need policy and regulation to catch up and ensure sustainable fish rapidly becomes the norm.”

Kath Dalmeny, chief executive of the Sustain alliance, said:

"The great task of our era is to avert catastrophic climate change and restore nature, critical to maintaining our ability to sustain human life and pursue social progress. Small steps and nudges are no longer good enough, we need big, transformative action to create the economic, policy and legislative conditions for better food, farming and fishing to thrive and accelerate into the mainstream.  Sustain will champion this being done in a way that also secures decent livelihoods, high standards of public health and animal welfare, and ensuring that everyone is able to eat well."

The Sustain alliance of food, farming, fishing, public health, animal welfare and environmental organisations is stepping up to the climate and nature emergency. We have two key priorities:

  • Catalysing the shared voice of our powerful alliance to campaign for the economic, policy and legislative conditions for climate and nature friendly food, farming and fishing to thrive.
  • Getting our own house in order, ensuring that we and our movement 'walk our talk' on climate and nature, and that our staff and the people we work with are confident advocates for change.

Sustain will shortly publish our commitments, and invite further ideas for what we can all do to avert dangerous climate change and restore nature, through our food, farming and fishing choices and policies. As our own first tangible steps (more to follow), the Sustain alliance is committing to:

  • Campaigning vociferously for an accelerated transition towards all UK farming being by agro-ecological methods, greatly increasing the carbon sequestration potential of soil and restoring nature. Also supporting a transition to diets that can contain more plants and some meat and dairy, but less, and raised to high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection. We will do so as part of our alliance’s work on the Agriculture Bill, Defra’s new Environmental Land Management Scheme, post-Brexit farm and trade policy, and the forthcoming National Food Strategy.
  • Working with the Sustainable Food Cities network and others to help towns, cities and rural areas that are declaring a climate and nature emergency to integrate support for climate and nature-friendly farming into their policies and practice; to boost fruit and vegetable production and consumption, and to radically reducing food waste.
  • Becoming ever more confident advocates for change. For example, Sustain will integrate climate change and nature restoration into more of our policy and communications work. Sustain's staff will also undertake training in AGM advocacy with the charity ShareAction, to help Sustain staff and associates use shareholder action to press businesses for change.



Find out more:

Media contact: Kath Dalmeny, chief executive of Sustain, tel: 020 3559 6777; email: 

Climate Change and Nature


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Climate Change and Nature: Sustain has taken a keen interest in the rapidly accumulating evidence about the effect of food and farming on climate change and nature, as scientific evidence emerges that our food system is a very significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss.

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