How Food and Farming Are Warming Up The Planet
With a commitment to zero net emissions from 2050 and just 3 years for emissions to start falling, we find ourselves in a critical moment in time to change the course of our planet's history. Brexit has provided an unlikely opportunity – as agricultural policy is re-set, we have a real chance to get farming on track for the future. But we have to act fast.
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. Currently the food and farming industry accounts for up to 1/3 of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The Government’s efforts to cut emissions from agriculture have been half-hearted so far. In fact, the Government’s own advisors, the Committee on Climate Change, have called for stronger policies on agriculture over the next five year period, as current progress is not on track to achieve the goal of Net Zero Emissions from farming by 2050. This requires rapid cuts to greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors, including food and agriculture.
New research published in the journal Nature Geoscience on 18 September 2017, has 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.
But in what way is our global food system contributing to climate change?
The Role of Food and Farming in the Climate Crisis
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 (for example, ploughing up forest or grassland for crops) and losses of soil carbon.
The International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) have estimated that altogether, one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions could be linked to the farming and food industries – production, processing, distribution and consumption.
It is clear that 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 its resultant extreme weather conditions. By the 2050s, 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.
Agricultural policy must move beyond the current voluntary approach of providing information and advice to food producers, and define practical measures which maximise the potential. The Soil Association is working tirelessly to make this happen now. And we need your help!
Want to find out more?
Discover which UK species are most at risk from climate change, or what our solutions to the problem of agricultural emissions are, or read Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner's poem on the effects of climate change, The Butterfly Thief.
What can you do?
Find out what you can to do to put #climatefriendlyfarming solutions on the political agenda as the new agricultural policy is set.Donate Today