How Food and Farming Are Warming Up The Planet
The food and farming industry accounts for around one third of global greenhouse gas emissions. But until recently, farming has been the elephant in the room when it comes to climate change. Yet, our ability to sustainably produce food for the world relies heavily on carbon-neutral farming and a much-improved food culture.
So far, the Government’s efforts to cut emissions from agriculture have been half-hearted. Indeed, the Government’s own advisors, the Committee on Climate Change, have called for stronger policies on agriculture if the UK is to get on track to meet legally binding climate targets. We agree that the forthcoming Agriculture Bill must link financial support to agricultural emissions reductions and increased carbon sequestration.
Research published in the journal Nature Geoscience on 18 September 2017 suggested that the ambition of limiting global warming to less than 1.5 degrees C, in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, remains in reach – if we take action now. Find out what we are proposing.
So in what way is our global food system contributing to climate change?
Farming is directly responsible for 10% of the EU’s overall emissions. However this figure ignores emissions from animal feed production outside of the EU, the manufacture of nitrogen fertiliser or other agro-chemicals, and the transport of agricultural products. It also excludes the emissions related to land use change such as ploughing up forest or grassland for crops, and losses of soil carbon.
Estimates from the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) attribute as much as one third of global greenhouse gas emissions to the farming and food industries – production, processing, distribution and consumption.
Action from the agricultural sector is essential in order to meet global goals to reduce emissions. In fact, it is farmers themselves who are often the first to feel the effects of climate change and the resulting extreme weather conditions. By the 2050's climate change could reduce the UK’s top grade farmland by three quarters. Flooding, drought, storms and extreme temperatures will have serious consequences for crop and livestock production.
The Committee on Climate Change is recommending that we move beyond a voluntary approach for on-farm emissions reductions, which has so far failed to meet its targets, and that Government develop a stronger framework to deliver these ambitions. Brexit, and the development of new agricultural policy, present a unique opportunity to make this happen - and the Soil Association is working tirelessly to put climate change on the agenda. Our recommendations to the recent Health and Harmony consultation made clear the role farming must play in reversing the climate crisis - to keep up the pressure, we need your help.
What can you do to help?
Our work is only possible with support from people like you, By becoming a member of the Soil Association, you'll be adding your voice to the call for practical legislation that makes climate-friendly farming the norm.