Leveraging local food systems to tackle climate change

Written by Jess Davies, of Lancaster University, who, along with N8 AgriFood Sustainable Food Communities Cluster Lead Rachel Marshall, and Anna Clayton of North Lancashire Food Futures, designed and delivered a workshop around cities, food and The Climate Emergency to a mix of city councillors, academics and NGOs at the National Climate Emergency conference in March 2019.

Food has a big role to play in dealing with climate change. How can we change our local food systems to help fight climate change and deal with its consequences? This was the topic of a recent workshop we co-facilitated with Anna Clayton from LESS and Sustainable Food City Lancaster and N8 AgriFood Knowledge Exchange Fellow Rachel Marshall at a recent Climate & Environmental Emergency Conference held at Lancaster Town Hall on the 29th of March.

Local action on a global problem

The past 6 months has seen a groundswell of local action on climate change. Over 70 local councils across the UK have declared climate emergencies, with many setting out targets to be carbon neutral by 2030, going well beyond the national climate commitments. Many are now working out how to achieve these ambitious goals. The conference at Lancaster brought together councillors across the country to discuss approaches.

Dishing up climate change

Where does food fit in? Almost a third of our greenhouse gas emissions are related to food production and consumption. As well as driving climate change, our food system is under threat from climate change. For example, increasingly frequent floods and droughts makes farming more difficult and causes disruptions in our supply chains.

In the workshop, we discussed these issues, and explored what action participants could practically take in their local regions to create a climate-smart food system. Ideas included working with local networks to boost sustainable food and local growing initiatives, and supporting farmers to exchange knowledge on sustainable farming practices.

Healthy plates, people and planet?

Health kept popping up in our conversations. Food is central to our health as people and the health of our ecosystems. Some participants felt that changing our approach to food could have win-wins for people and the planet – healthier food options can also be more sustainable food options, and the costs to the environment and costs to health are often linked. Our research project will explore how increasing the ‘local-ness’ of our food through urban agriculture could benefit our ecosystems and our health.