This report consists of written evidence submitted by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment to the UK Parliament Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry on environmental change and food security, which was launched on 10 November 2022.

Summary points

  • Climate change is a systemic risk that is already having a negative impact on food security in the UK, through its impacts on both domestic and overseas food production, and on the resilience of global food supply chains.
  • To ensure food security in a climate-insecure world, it is increasingly important that domestic food production is resilient. The UK is a net food importer, and as such it is highly vulnerable to disruption to global food supply chains, whether caused by extreme weather shocks, geopolitical conflict, or crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. These kinds of disruption can drive up food prices, affecting people’s ability to access sufficient,
    healthy food.
  • The increasing severity and frequency of heatwaves and extremes of precipitation due to climate change already threaten food security in the UK. If the Glasgow commitments are not met, moderate to severe food insecurity in the UK could be more than 4 percentage points higher by 2050.
  • The UK’s Food Strategy of 2022 does not sufficiently factor climate risks into building resilient domestic food supply chains. To inform effective policy, a better understanding of how climate change is increasingly affecting food security is needed, including through its impact on food production, labour supply and labour productivity, food prices and health. 
  • Air pollution also affects food supply through its impacts on crop growth. Tightening the UK’s national air quality standard for nitrogen dioxide would both reduce the impact of ozone pollution on food, health and nature, and contribute to climate change mitigation.
  • Accelerating a shift to low-carbon and more plant-based diets can contribute to improved food security and provide health and climate mitigation co-benefits. There is scope to lower livestock emissions by reducing both beef imports and domestic livestock production. Less land would be needed to grow grain for livestock that are not fully grass-fed, and there would be potential to enhance biodiversity and carbon sequestration through tree planting and rewilding, for example. 
  • The UK Government could take a number of measures to encourage dietary shifts to lower-carbon, more plant-based diets, such as imposing a ban on advertising unhealthy foods, and making fruit and vegetables more affordable and accessible, such as through support to increase domestic production.
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