Far from copping out

COP26 is all over the headlines understandably, yet the food and drinks industry faced calls to feature more heavily on up the agenda. More than thirty NGOs, leading academics, local governments and industry bodies wrote to COP26 President Alok Sharma asking him to do just that prior to the UK hosting the global climate summit in Glasgow.

Current food systems generate more than a quarter of global GHG emissions, and experts agree that net zero is unachievable without a transformation in what we eat, how we farm, and how much food we waste. Increasingly people are making more informed choices, and are aware of how these decisions impact the planet for future generations. 

What goes unnoticed is how much the food and beverage industry does to not just raise awareness of the issue but also fix food systems via individual company action and partnerships with like minded organisations.

Industry is making progress already on deforestation-free supply chains, on cutting food waste and on national food plans. The FDF announced an ambition for the UK’s food and drink manufacturing sector to reach Net Zero emissions by 2040. It is being highly proactive and using COP26 as a springboard to further build momentum on coordinated actions across the farm-to-fork supply chain, helping the sector to reduce its carbon footprint on the pathway to Net Zero. The FDF will include the publication of our Net Zero Roadmap and handbook which provides practical advice to businesses.

Science has a role to play in securing agricultural and food production systems to overcome these challenges. We will need to develop new agricultural technologies and practices to reduce the sector’s contribution to the climate emergency and science can play an important role in this. 

The John Innes Centre is working on harnessing the power of plants and microbes to combat climate change. From sustainably produced proteins, new ways of farming, to nitrate sensors can be used to decrease fertiliser use, and help to decrease the carbon footprint of agriculture.

I’m not saying we’re close to solving the challenges but we’re certainly en route to developing a careful and integrated approach between the different agendas. COP 26 is an opportunity to pave this path – with or  without food being high on the agenda.

Building a sustainable, healthy and equitable food system is a huge challenge. I am optimistic that now more than ever that the topic of sustainable agriculture, food production and its impact on our environment will get some serious consideration post COP26. We can use the power of all the levers at our disposal to address these issues, and to build a climate resilient industry. 

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