To what extent are global environmental changes affecting our food security?
10 November 2022
The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has today launched a new inquiry considering how environmental changes, including climate change, are likely to impact future food security.
Global food production is affected by numerous environmental factors. This includes climate change, biodiversity loss caused by agricultural land expansion, and overexploitation of natural capital resources, including fish stocks and water resources. These factors not only impact the food supplied in the UK from domestic producers, but also affect the supply of food from outside the UK, especially from countries that are typically more likely to experience extreme weather events.
Experts have raised concerns that environmental factors are adversely affecting UK food security. In addition, the Government’s Food Strategy has been described as a “missed opportunity” to address the effects of climate change. Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that climate change will increasingly put pressure on food production and access to food, and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has suggested that biodiversity loss poses significant threats to food security and public health.
Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said:
“It is not just our imported bananas from Costa Rica and tomatoes from Morocco that could be drastically affected by extreme weather events triggered by environmental changes. The prolonged heatwave and drought the UK experienced in 2022 affected many crops, from berries to peas and salad heads to broad beans, cutting the incomes of farmers and reducing choice on supermarket shelves.
“Food security is a real cause for concern in an ever-changing world where the effects of climate change and other environmental factors are increasingly apparent. During this inquiry, the Committee will be considering to what extent UK food supply is affected by environmental factors, and what — if anything — the UK Government can do to ensure the security of future supplies.”
Terms of reference
The Committee invites written submissions addressing any or all of the issues raised in the following terms of reference, by 17:00 on Thursday 15th December 2022.
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, which 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?
Image: UK Parliament