Tackling climate change with food

local food columnClimate change is a complex topic, with its causes and effects being completely interlinked with a range of social and environmental justice issues. As such a complex problem needs a holistic solution that embrace this complexity.

Over the past six months, more than 70 local councils across the UK have declared climate emergencies (including Lancaster City Council), presenting local councils as a key player in leading the climate emergency response. However, the question of ‘HOW local authorities are going to achieve their ambitious carbon neutral targets?’ remains.

The recent ‘Climate Emergency’ summit held in Lancaster on the 29th March aimed to explore answers to ‘how’?

As part of the summit, Sustainable Food City Lancaster facilitated a workshop that explored: How can we change our local food systems to help fight climate change and deal with its consequences? Jessica Davies and Rachel Marshall from Lancaster University co-facilitated this session with Anna Clayton; helping to capture some of the rich conversation that emerged.

The workshop explored how our current food system contributes 30% of our greenhouse gas emissions whilst also being vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Issues discussed more unpredictable and extreme weather events causing crop damage, which in turn can affect the availability and price of certain foods. Someone also raised the fact that floods and droughts can cause disruption to distribution networks and supply chains.

Having explored how food and climate change are interlinked, the group discussed strategies for transitioning to zero carbon societies.

Seasonal Local Food Wallchart-page-001Ideas discussed included the use of regenerative farming techniques that support carbon sequestration whilst also increasing biodiversity. A People’s Food Policy was referenced as a useful go-to document for ideas around food policy recommendations.

Making the ‘right choice’ easier was also discussed at length e.g. how can sustainable and healthy food items be made more affordable and attractive? Ideas suggested drew on the ‘Broken Plate’ report and included re-designing VAT so healthier (and more sustainable foods) have lower VAT and are cheaper. Marketing campaigns to make more sustainable diets ‘sexy’ was also suggested, alongside banning adverts for unsustainable foods. To compliment this, it was suggested that we transform the school curriculum to include carbon and ecological literacy in relation to diets, cooking and growing skills.

 

Also considered key was the development of local food supply chains and the creation of land security and access for community growing to support local food production for local distribution.

Finally, to support the above in happening cross-sector collaboration was considered important as food is connected to a number of key agendas (health, landscape management, urban planning, distribution networks, resilient economies and community cohesion).

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