Tell governments to step up to the plate and put food at the heart of climate efforts

Changing the way we eat and how much food we waste are two of the single biggest actions governments can take to respond to the climate crisis. Around the world, producing our food creates around a quarter of global Greenhouse Gas emissions, so cutting food waste in half and switching to healthy, low-meat, plant-based diets in industrialised, high-income has huge benefits for our health and the health of our planet.

If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter after the US and China. The top 5 global meat corporations emit more than ExxonMobil, Shell or the UK.

Scotland in the United Kingdom was planned to host next Climate negotiation, COP26, unfortunately because of Covid-19 this conference has been postponed. However, the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the need for a resilient food system.  It has exposed our risky dependency on global food supply chains. It has also exposed issues concerning food security, in the UK for example since the lockdown began, four times as many adults are experiencing food insecurity as were before it started.

Governments need to step forward and set the agenda for food policy action which will improve lives for people around the world, protect nature and help create a better future. As President of COP26, Alok Sharma is in a good position to raise food issues up the climate agenda in the run up to the conference- and ensure food figures prominently on the menu at the conference itself. Tell him you want to see action to halve food waste and shift to healthy, plant-based diets.

Dear Alok Sharma,

In this decisive time for the UK's climate leadership as you host COP26, I would like to call on you to put food system issues on the UNFCCC climate policy agenda. This is because the agricultural and food production sector accounts for 25-30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Mitigating food system emissions is a huge opportunity to shift the world towards a decarbonisation agenda, and demand-side food system measures such as cutting food waste and shifting towards sustainable, healthy, low-meat diets in countries with high meat intake, have been shown by the IPCC (Special Report on Climate and Land) to be an effective way to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions. In fact, recent research published in Nature Sustainability has showed that it is not possible to feed 10 billion people within planetary boundaries without dietary change and food waste reduction (Gerten, D., Heck, V., Jägermeyr, J. et al. 2020).

As we approach the UK presidency of COP26 in Glasgow, I urge you to focus attention on the enormous potential of demand side food system measures, which have been largely ignored in national climate policies and Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement. This is an enormous opportunity, and it is vital that COP26 achieves a major win for the Planet by realising the potential of these measures for climate mitigation, to achieve the IPCC's recommended target of keeping the world's temperature increase below 1.5°C.

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