Including food in city climate strategies

local food columnAfter co-running a session on ‘tackling climate change through food’ at Lancaster’s recent Climate Emergency summit, I started seeking case studies on how cities can successfully integrate food into climate strategies. In doing so I came across an interesting webinar organised by the Ohio Food Policy Network in America. Oliver Kroner from Green Cincinnati and Erica Meschkat, Sustainable Manager City of Cleveland, both shared their experience on integrating food into their city’s climate strategy. Although their contexts are different to Lancaster, some underlying key themes emerged.

Firstly, they discussed the need to shift discussion and imagery used around climate change away from polar bears on ice caps. The polar bear’s plight can make climate change appear an issue for somewhere else. But climate change is very much relevant to us here in Lancaster as it is for every other location on planet earth- as highlighted by Morecambe Bay Extinction Rebels demonstrations around sea level rise.

And when it comes to cities, they are essentially a problem multiplier.

Oliver discussed how ‘cities claim 2% of the Earth’s surface, 54% of the human population and over 70% of the world’s carbon emissions.’ and that all these numbers are expected to grow. ‘On one hand cities are the problem/ cause of climate change. They are also arguably the solution as changes made in cities could have a huge impact on greenhouse gas emissions’.

To quote Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed “Cities are the front lines of climate change – we are where the action is.”

City climate strategies play an important role in addressing climate change. ‘City policies drive how cities look and how humans live within them…’ If we want to achieve sustainable behaviour change we need to change the city DNA and therefore city policy.

To do this effectively, Oliver and Erica emphasised the need to engage and partner with a wide range of stakeholders to consider a city’s approach to community resilience, mitigation and adaptation. Community conversations and a People’s Assembly process could be used.

When it comes to incorporating food, it was recognised that food often gets missed out of climate strategies as it doesn’t neatly fit into city protocols or policy. However, tackling issues such as food waste play a crucial role in reducing a city’s green house gas (GHG) emissions.

Oliver referenced Project Drawdown – a piece of research that presents 100 solutions that we have today to help drawdown atmospheric carbon to levels we need. Of the top 20 (most impactful) solutions to address climate change, eight relate directly to food: reduce food waste, shift to plant-rich diets, implement silvopasture, regenerative agriculture, tropical staple trees, conservation agriculture, tree inter-cropping and managed grazing.

It is therefore essential that food is incorporated into Lancaster’s (and other cities) climate strategies.

For Cincinnati, its food related climate strategies include:

  • Removing prohibitions on composting/ moving food waste from one parcel to another.
  • Urban planning and allocating more land for growing.
  • Working towards 100% of residents having convenient access to healthy, affordable local food.
  • Reducing food waste and building closed loop food economies.
  • Increasing urban food production through policies and programmes such as a local food entrepreneur programme and micro grants for urban agriculture projects.
  • Increasing local food consumption through campaigns and the creation of food hubs.
  • Increasing the number of people eating a plant based diet- through community conversations around ‘living sustainably’ that lead to a 30 day commitment and pledge to reducing food footprints.

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