Food Security, Peak Oil & Climate Change: the policy context
talk to ‘Food Security & Peak Oil’ meeting, All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil, House of Commons, Portcullis House, Thatcher Room, Westminster, March 25 2008
- What is the policy context?
- Why the interest now?
- What is the UK Gov’t position?
- What other positions are emerging?
- What is the way forward?
[& …if we have time]
6. What issues require more attention?
1. What’s the policy context?
Food and Peak Oil
- C20th efficiency gains heavily oil-dependent
- 95% of all food is oil-dependent: on farm processing; distribution; retail; consumers
- Oil politics: price rises; finite; wars etc.
- Oil $100 barrel +c.10% food prices (SDC 2007)
- Weak / mostly palliative policy response
- Emerging discourse of carbon-calories?
Food and Climate Change
- Food is single largest contribution:
- c19% total av UK household GHG
- Targets exist:
- on reducing emissions from buildings and operations
- no Govt strategy on reducing transport emissions
- Main food hotspots:
- meat & dairy, glasshouse vegetables, air-freighted produce, heavily processed foods and refrigeration
Where Tesco sets its Carbon Footprint boundary (2007)
source: Tesco (2007). Measuring our carbon footprint. Cheshunt: Tesco plc. http://www.tesco.com/climatechange/carbonFootprint.asp
Peak Oil & Climate Change are but latest entries to long FS discourse
- Trade & Empire: less need to grow food cheap food for cheap urban labour WW U-turns EU tie-in multilevel governance
- Health & wellbeing: public health (Chadwick) eugenics (Boer War) rationing NHS obesity today
- Welfare & morality: facilities affordability income support choice culture
- Supply efficiency: breeding mechanisation science corporate control
- Demand: class women’s skills consumerism
FS policy is complicated by different meanings…
- Food nationalism: self-sufficiency, autarky
- Food defence: feeding in dire circumstances
- Food control: the actions of state (rationing)
- Food resilience: capacity to withstand shock
- Food risks: factors which threaten goals
- Food sovereignty: ensuring societal control
- Food democracy: full social engagement
- Food capacity: capability to produce
2. Why the interest now?
8 fundamentals loom
- Commodity prices
- Climate change
- Fuel / oil / energy
- Land use (biofuels)
- Demographics / affluence (BRICs +)
- Health / Nutrition transition
1. T Lang (2008) City Leaders lecture: http://www.city.ac.uk/news/archive/2008/03_march/04032008_1.html
2. T Lang (2007) Rachel Carson lecture: http://www.pan-uk.org/Projects/RCML/index.htm
3. Chatham House project: http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/research/global_trends/
3. What is the UK Government position?
Current food security policy
- No new official food security policy (yet)
- Curry Commission (2002)
- Cabinet Office Strategy Unit 2007-08 review
- Some tensions: farm protection (CAP)
- General ‘market’ focus:
- Efficient supply chains (redoubled post Curry)
- Retailer-led standards
- Price conscious
- Emerging stress on public goods: environment, health, ethics, land
- Defra / HMT voicing new global position (2005)
Defra 2006 FS paper
- “Poverty and subsistence agriculture are root causes of national food insecurity. National food security is hugely more relevant for developing countries than the rich countries of Western Europe.” (p23)
- There is enough food to feed the world
- Self-sufficiency is an undesirable goal for a trading nation (and won’t work anyway)
- UK can and should buy on open markets and work for CAP reform (HMT & Defra 2005 A Vision for the CAP)
- Contingency planning is needed (p51)
FS not important to a ‘modern’ rich economy?
- Globalisation: restructuring e.g. WTO
- EU: CAP
- From quantity / security + env’t (pillar 2)
- UK economic ‘direction of travel’ as finance, service and trading centre rather than production centre
- return to ‘old’ policy agenda:
- Why have farming? (what is land for?)
- Triumph of 1840s ethos (again!)
The UK Self-Sufficiency Ratio 1956-2005
source: Defra Fd Sec Dec 2006 fig 6.1 pg 34
Self-sufficiency ratios for a sample of commodities 1980-2005 Defra (2006) Fig 6-2, p 34
Source: Defra 2007 Labour force statistics. York Dec 2007
E+W AGRIC LABOUR FORCE 1996-2007
NB 1983-1996 decline of total agri labour force was 28%
(1996= change of data collection methodology)
Food resilience (to shock)
- UK is resilient with some problems exposed: Helen Peck 2006 Defra study
- Potential shocks in FS discourse:
- Power (centralised + no back-up)
- Supply chain management
- Environment: long-term climate change?
- Health: avian ‘flu impact on labour?
- Transport: fuel prices up? (SDC study)
- Power: Russians turn off the gas?
- Taut supply chains = less storage?
4. What other policy positions are emerging?
Emerging competing positions (1)
- Armaggedons Sci-Fi ‘Forever War’ where currency is calories
- ‘Something will come along’
- ‘Shop till we drop’
- Markets will sort it
- Chance to alter playing field (end subsidies)
- Redefine efficiency (wheat/maize biofuel=stupid)
- New land can come into play
Emerging competing positions (2)
- New ruralists / farm revival:
- Economic self-interest - Commercial Farmers Group
- Rural fabric: Women’s NFU / Baroness Byford (Shadow Minister for Food & Rural Affairs)
- Technical fix:
- new Green revolution: H20
- Biotechnology, GM, ‘biopesticides’
- Consumer fix:
- Alter diets
- Reduce waste
Emerging competing positions (3)
- Rich over-consume; poor under-consume
- All need to change how we consume
- New Localists:
- Stop idiotic ‘exchange’
- Rebuild the local (what can be grown)
- Price controls, rationing, etc
- Welfare: raise incomes to keep food affordable
5. What is the way forward?
Shift discourse to Food Capacity- reflecting the SD 3 pillars
- Production capacity: production base, supply chain governance & necessary skills (at a time of fragile employment on land)
- Load-bearing capacity: food’s impact on environment, land and natural resources (in a time of climate change stress)
- Social capacity: all-important social dimension of consumption and consumer expectations (at a time of rising diet-related health costs and consumer expectations of low prices which fail to internalise full environmental costs)
Roadmap for Food Capacity
- Address all 8 fundamentals in systemic focus
- Think through governance implications (Gov’t lead)
- Work out on national/regional/local basis
- Build on embryonic thinking
- D.A.s: Wales, Scotland
- Civil society: Transition Towns movement
- Research: Zero Carbon Britain project (CAT)
- From CAP to Common Sustainable Food Policy
Redefining UK Food Policy Goals
- Must lead on what a sustainable food system should be - SDC (2008) ‘Green, healthy & fair’ http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/pages/supermarkets.html
- Supply chain:
- Work to omni-standards: nutrition, safety, GHGs, H20, fairness, etc.
- Consumers & civil society
- Eco-nutrition will require dietary change
- Shift to ‘values-for-money’
UK has a lot of catching up? eg. Fruit
6. What issues require
i. What could a post PO food system look like to meet FS?
- New vision needed
- Clear framework (learning from WW2?)
- Certain hotspots are likely
ii. Dietary change?
Meat & Dairy
- Major GHG source
- Big land use impact
- Poor health impact (excess)
- Poor converters
- Huge water impact
Fruit & Vegetables
- Major health gain
- Big skills requirement
- Seasonality issue
- Cultural challenge
- Not all land can grow!
iii. Price rises almost inevitable?
- Tackling consumer assumptions
- What would values-for-money look like?
- A big political decision cuts across conventional party lines
iv. Public engagement
- City review for Chatham House 2006: no publicly available studies on attitudes to FS
- Defra 5 studies on consumer SD behaviour change:
- Food sustainability consciousness low
- Behaviour change shaped by cost + individual benefits
- “If it was serious, the Gov’t would be doing something about it” need for visible action by Gov’t + business
- Buying better products is more acceptable than changing lifestyles – consumers ‘locked in’ by children + food tastes
v. Government role
- Leadership: carrots not sticks
- Define what a sustainable food system is (SDC)
- Common Sustainable Food Policy?
- Develop omni-standards
- Key starting points:
- Land policy: food not biofuels
- Energy: reduce use / retrofit
- Skills: SD training across food supply chain
- Re-orient the market on sustainability grounds
- “Carry the people with us” not “hide behind Tesco”
vi. Supply chain capacity
- If 95% food is oil-dependent, what would a post or ‘less oil’ food economy look like?
- Which sectors need to change most?
- Cost: prices need to rise but how much would they? SDC $100 showed +5-10%
- Skills on farm – role for gardening / urban agriculture?
vii. Consumers & civil society
- Patchy understanding of precarious state of supply system (due to élitist debate)
- Low income consumers
- NGOs: FS could be a unifying issue beyond single issues
- Core issue is Constraint vs Choice Culture
- Rationing on sustainability grounds?
- Carbon, water, nutrition standards = omni-standards