By Nylah Rampersad and Jennifer Guy, two masters students from the University of Edinburgh, currently on placement with RSPB Scotland, a member organisation of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland.
The Climate Coalition’s report “Recipe for Disaster” paints a bleak picture for the UK’s farmers in an increasingly unpredictable climate. Inefficient farming practices lead to potent greenhouse gas emissions, due to increased demand for food and feed production within the UK’s food system.
Agriculture and related land use is responsible for around a quarter of Scotland’s emissions but farmers are already asking for the support of Government to curb their emissions.
In October last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a special report outlining how we can avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The IPCC is clear: without changes in land use and the food system, an increase in the harmful effects our food system has on the climate is inevitable.
Currently, the Scottish Parliament is reviewing a new climate change Bill, which won’t increase our short term targets for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and only slightly raises the 2050 target from 80% to 90%. But Scotland can do better! Many organisations and public groups, including SCCS, are campaigning for more rapid emissions cuts as well as robust action on agriculture and land-use in the Bill.
We need a new relationship with food and this needs to be supported at all levels. Farmers and crofters need to be supported to do more to reduce emissions and this can be achieved through changes in our land management, policy, and a shift in funding to incentivise sustainability-led approaches.
Additionally, at a personal level our behaviours as consumers can lead this change and signal to businesses and our decision makers how we want to see Scotland’s food system work in a future low carbon world.
Scientists at the University of Oxford have concluded that we all need to make changes to a more climate-friendly diet. Eating less meat and dairy but making sure it is better quality when we do, and eating more plant-based food is key to reducing the climate impacts of our diet.
Better quality meat and dairy will mean a number of things – how it is reared in terms of other wildlife benefits, and animal welfare considerations. Knowing how it was farmed, and looking for words like ‘grass fed’ and ‘free range’ help identify production from farms with lower environmental impact. We can also think about the shorter the distance food has to travel. Local food will have lower transport emissions, and you are also more likely to know how your food has been produced, and you’ll be supporting local farmers. So, check your packaging to see if your food has been produced and packaged in the UK!
Support local and Ecologically Friendly Farming
For those looking for an even more convenient way to go local, an increasing number of farms deliver food directly to customers’ doorsteps.
By selecting which farm you buy from, you can directly support farms with better environmental practices. Low-intensity and organic farming designed to protect and revitalise the natural ecosystems around them are a good choice. For those who really want to know where their food comes from, some farms even welcome visits from customers.
Reduce your food waste
Approximately 630,000 tonnes of food goes to waste every year in Scotland. Food waste not only produces emissions, but increases the amount of land we need to produce food. Simple things such as planning meals ahead and eating or freezing leftovers can make a huge difference to a household food waste. Zero-Waste Scotland offers plenty of advice about how to reduce your food waste.
We can also encourage food-based businesses to make good choices easier for their customer, while also reducing their own waste. Even the largest companies endeavour to please their customers. For supermarkets, relaxing specifications for ‘acceptable’ fruit and vegetables (often to do with size, colour and weight of products) can help reduce how farmers have to throw away. Just like individuals, businesses can look for ways to reduce their waste and purchase raw ingredients with a lower environmental impact. If you want to send a message to supermarkets and suppliers you can even get in touch ask them how they plan to do better.
We have unique opportunities to re-evaluate our entire food system right now in Scotland.
The Climate Change Bill going through the Scottish Parliament is a key opportunity to raise our ambition and start matching it with action. In addition, the Scottish Government is consulting on proposals for a new Good Food Nation Bill, which could change how we do food policy in Scotland, positioning us as leaders on the world stage. Help us change our food system to one which supports a countryside full of diverse wildlife, produces all the food we need, and supports the health of our environment and the people. You don’t have to choose between health, environment or the economy. What’s good for one can be good for them all! Write, phone or tweet your local member of parliament, and let them know you care! Together, we can create a healthier and more beautiful Scotland.