A new report has estimated that the UK food system was responsible for nearly 160 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in the UK and overseas in 2019 – around 35% of UK territorial emissions.
The report, UK Food System GHG Emissions, the most comprehensive mapping of the UK's food and drink carbon footprint, included emissions from producing and eating the country's food and drink, as well as emissions overseas for imported food.
The report's author, the UK's environmental charity WRAP, said action by the sector was fundamental to delivering the UK's net zero ambitions, with the government committed to bringing the country to net zero by 2050.
It also highlighted the need to consider the full, global footprint of food and drink systems, as greenhouse gas emissions associated with overseas production of food and drink imported, sold and consumed in the UK made up more than one third of the UK's food and drink consumption footprint.
The report detailed a pathway to achieving a 50% reduction in the emissions linked to production and consumption of food and drink in the UK, achieved mainly by ensuring that existing policy, business and sector-level commitments and targets are delivered. However, WRAP warned they must be delivered at pace.
Marcus Gover, chief executive of WRAP, said: "Much attention will rightly be paid to energy generation and transport at COP26, but we ignore the food system at our peril. There is little talk about the contribution that strategies around food and drink can have to climate action, and it is vital we raise awareness and drive action among policymakers and businesses at COP26. That is why WRAP has set out the tangible reductions that can be made simply by focusing on food and drink as key part of climate action.
"A 50% reduction by 2030 is possible, but we need action as much as talk. And the benefits go far beyond the environment as a more sustainable food system is crucial to feed our expanding global population against a backdrop of changing climate and less predictable weather patterns."
WRAP is today (6 October) holding a special briefing in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Resources Institute to outline how a Net Zero food system can benefit the planet, and its inhabitants, with five key actions for UK industry.
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