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Call for Evidence

Environmental change and food security

The Environmental Audit Committee is launching an inquiry into environmental change and food security. The Committee’s inquiry will examine the UK’s preparedness and resilience to future food supply stresses or shocks caused by climate change and other environmental changes. Several environmental factors threaten the stability and long-term sustainability of global food production: climate change, biodiversity loss caused by agricultural land expansion, and overexploitation of natural capital resources, including fish stocks and water resources. 

Water security is inextricably tied to food security and the Committee may wish to consider broadening the inquiry – or building on it at a later date - to include water security. Water scarcity is likely to be a major issue in summer 2023 as there are fears that reservoirs may not be fully replenished.


Food security risks of climate change and biodiversity loss

Climate change is one of the biggest long-term threats to global and UK food security.  Agriculture around the world is vulnerable to changes in temperature and rainfall, shifting pests and diseases, and extreme weather events. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) sixth assessment report (AR6) published in March 2022, warned that climate change will increasingly put pressure on food production and access to food, especially in vulnerable regions, undermining food security and nutrition.[1] The IPCC’s AR6 finds that risks to food security increase with higher degrees of warming over the course of this century:

  • At 1.5°C to 2°C global heating: Increases in frequency, intensity and severity of droughts, floods and heatwaves, and continued sea level rise will increase risks to food security in vulnerable regions, with no or low levels of adaptation.
  • At 2°C or higher: food security risks will be more severe. Global warming will progressively weaken soil health and ecosystem services such as pollination, increase pressure from pests and diseases, and reduce marine animal biomass, undermining food productivity in many regions on land and in the ocean.
  • At 3°C or higher: in the long term, areas exposed to climate-related hazards will expand substantially compared with 2°C or lower global warming level, exacerbating regional disparity in food security risks. [2]

The UN Emissions Gap Report 2022 shows that existing national climate pledges combined (if fully implemented) with other mitigation measures put the world on track for a global temperature rise of 2.4-2.6°C by the end of the century.[3] The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has also warned that biodiversity loss poses significant threats to food security and public health.


Risks to the UK

Over half the food currently consumed in the UK is imported[4], so the UK is potentially exposed to the impact that environmental changes will have on food production around the world. Agriculture in the UK could also be negatively affected as climate change is projected to result in warmer, wetter winters and hotter, drier summers in this country.[5]

The potential risks have been vividly demonstrated in 2022 as the prolonged (and record-breaking) heatwave and drought has affected the growing of crops. UK agriculture may continue to suffer in the summer of 2023 if consistent above average rainfall over Autumn and Winter 2022/23 does not arrive to replenish water levels.[6]


In December 2021 the UK Government published the first in a tri-annual series of UK Food Security Report required under the Agriculture Act 2020, examining trends relevant to food security, including climate change and biodiversity loss.[7]  In June 2022, the Government published its Food Strategy, following an independent review carried out by Henry Dimbleby, that included policies intended to boost health, sustainability, food security while contributing to the ‘levelling up’ agenda.[8]  The Strategy commits the Government to publishing a ‘land use framework’ in 2023 with objectives for English Agriculture, the environment and net zero.

The Climate Change Committee described the Government’s Food Strategy as a ‘missed opportunity’ for the climate’. It said that the strategy contained little mention of the adaptations needed in the food system to build resilience to the climate and weather extremes of the future.[9]

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee is conducting an inquiry into food security examining the more immediate impacts on food security of supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine.  EAC will work to complement this inquiry.

The Committee would welcome submissions to its inquiry which address any or all of the following terms of reference. Submissions should be made through the Committee’s evidence portal, to be received by 5.00 pm on Wednesday 21 December 2022. 

It is recommended that all submitters familiarise themselves with the Guidance on giving evidence to a Select Committee of the House of Commons


Terms of reference

Climate change and food security: projected effect, risks, and mitigation

  • What are the main risks posed to future UK food security from projected climate change and biodiversity loss pathways?
  • Where does the UK’s food come from? On the current climate change trajectory, how will these regions be affected by climate change and what will the impact on UK food security be?
  • How do existing UK food production, import, and export practices contribute to climate change and biodiversity loss?
  • How self-sufficient is the UK in producing food? What practices could the UK adopt to become more self-sufficient while reducing the emissions associated with agriculture?


UK preparedness: Government and market

  • How has the prolonged heat-wave and drought in 2022 affected food growing in the UK?
  • How can the UK ensure that enough water is available for crop growing while preventing unsustainable levels of abstraction that can impact the ecology and resilience of our rivers, wetlands and aquifers?
  • How will food-producing regions of the UK be affected by climate change? What can the UK do to support adaptation efforts in the countries and regions most affected?
  • What is the Government doing to prepare for disruption to the UK’s food supply resulting from climate change impacts or biodiversity loss?
  • Does the Government’s Food Strategy address the risks of climate change and biodiversity loss adequately? Does it prepare the UK to adapt to a world affected by ecological crises?
  • How effective would the market be at securing the UK’s food supply in a situation of major food insecurity world wide? To what extent could Government intervention be needed?
  • Could the UK’s land be better used to secure our domestic food supply? What role could community or urban food growing play in increasing the UK’s resilience to food shortages caused by environmental change?
  • What role should the Government take in ensuring that land is available to secure the UK’s food supply in the context of a changing climate?


Securing a sustainable food supply

  • Does the Government’s Food Strategy put the UK on a path to a secure and sustainable food supply?
  • What are the most environmentally friendly ways of producing a secure supply of nutritious food?
  • What role could a reduction in meat and dairy consumption play in improving food security and what measures could the Government take to capitalise on the trend to plant-based diets?
  • What role do food technologies have in mitigating the risks that environmental changes poses to UK food security?
  • Is there research and development the Government could be funding to provide food security solutions? 


[1] IPCC, Climate Change 2022, WGII Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Summary for Policymakers, March 2022

[2] IPCC, Climate Change 2022, WGII Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Summary for Policymakers, March 2022

[3] UNEP, Emissions Gap Report 2022, October 2022

[4] DEFRA, UK Food Security Report 2021, December 2021

[5] POST, Climate Change and Agriculture, May 2019

[6] Observer, Drought threatens England’s fruit and vegetable crop next year, says report, 15 October 2022

[7] DEFRA, UK Food Security Report 2021, December 2021

[8], Government food strategy, June 2022

[9] CCC, Government’s Food Strategy ‘a missed opportunity’ for the climate, 13 June 2022

This call for written evidence has now closed.

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