In the last decade, the security and supply of our global food system has been increasingly impacted by the ever-changing climate. The food system contributes towards one third of the total number of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, whilst another third of all food ends up in landfill. The Scottish Government reports that 60% of food waste comes from the household, 25% from food and drink manufacturing and a further 14% comes from other sources across the country.
We now have a target to meet a 33% reduction of food waste in Scotland by 2025. This shows the government’s commitment to the prevention of further environmental degradation, as when food waste ends up in landfill it produces methane gas whilst rotting and this is one of the most harmful greenhouse gases powering the vast changes to the climate experienced today.
Scotland has the right foundations to grow more food but rapidly became vulnerable to climatic events, as elsewhere, so is now a nation largely dependent on certain food imports. Over half of the UK’s fruit and vegetable supply is imported from countries that experience extreme levels of water scarcity, biodiversity loss and health inequalities. Therefore, these climatic impacts which lead to the widespread failure of crop growth will increase the prices of food production elsewhere.
Hence the cost and supply of food to the UK has rocketed, as it becomes more difficult to deliver good food for both human and planetary health. This further spirals into less people across the country being able to access affordable and nutritious food, which affects the likelihood of more people beginning to suffer from health issues like obesity.
Though the agricultural industry across Scotland can take action to protect our crops and increase local food supply, but we must realise that every aspect of the food industry is susceptible to change – especially due to the hotter temperatures experienced this summer. The most recent IPCC report stated that if global temperatures continue to rise above 2°C, then food security will be severely at risk.
With a higher level of global warming, this could lead to malnutrition and micro-nutrient deficiencies; alongside deteriorated soil health and ecosystem services, whilst pests and diseases will increase pressure on food productivity. The Scottish agricultural system would therefore become more exposed to crop failure because heavy rainfall could also suspend or put a stop to the crop harvest. Additionally, increased levels of rainfall may interrupt our local power supplies which can spoil food products; especially those items which require transportation in either a fridge or freezer.
We can all start to take steps as individuals to adapt and try limit the social and environmental costs related to the food system because of climate change. Sustainable measures must be implemented and bring co-benefits to Scottish biodiversity, with set targets to not further affect the primary food producers who already struggle in the current disrupted market. It is crucial we all start to make conscious decisions on how we buy and consume food products. Though this requires a commitment in our individual actions to ensure that we can make a longstanding impact in the transition to a climate responsive food system.
Some of the practical daily actions we can take towards this solution include reducing and recycling all food waste, whilst growing or buying as much local food produce (organic where possible) which will help to boost local supply chains. You could get involved with the Highland Community Waste Partnership to help build your knowledge and understanding around the requirements needed to reduce waste in your daily life. We all love to cut costs where possible, which you can do (for both your pocket and the environment!) by learning how to buy and use products for better and longer.
We can also choose to eat more seasonal fruit and vegetables, alongside cooking more from scratch to avoid processed foods. It is important for us all to educate ourselves more on the different supply chains of the foods we eat, and how we can influence more sustainable food systems. Check out the work of our friends over at the Highland Good Food Partnership to see how this charity organisation are working to create a local food system that is fair to all.
Written by Chloe Sinclair, Climate Change Communications Intern