Knowledge for better food systems

New report from the Sustainable Consumption Institute: What’s Cooking? Adaptation and mitigation in the UK food system

This report presents findings based on an interdisciplinary systems level scenario approach designed specifically to address complex societal problems. The project was funded by the Sustainable Consumption Institute to explore how the UK food system may develop and change in response to futures bounded by more or less extreme climate impacts and emission cuts. The UK is taken as a case study to explore suites of possible futures that address adaptation, mitigation and demand.

To investigate how different scenarios may play out within the food system – from consumption to production – two contrasting climate futures are considered. One where mitigation and adaptation are commensurate with avoiding global temperatures breaching the 2°C threshold associated with ‘dangerous interference with the climate system’, and the other in a world aiming to avoid more than 4°C of warming. The analysis is framed by cumulative emissions, as opposed to long-term emission reduction targets, and takes a consumption-based approach to greenhouse gas emissions accounting.

Five scenarios are developed, two in line with 2°C futures and three 4°C futures. Each is named after a typical meal: Bubble & Squeak & Mash & Banger (2°C), Pasta & Pesto, Chicken Tikka Masala & Lamb Chops (4°C). The scenarios are developed through analysis of the coupled adaptation and mitigation strategies within agriculture, underpinning energy scenarios, in addition to a reallocation of patterns of consumer demand, all in order to mitigate emissions in line with the temperature targets.

The report finds that while technological innovations and some shifts in how and what people consume could prevent a rise to 4⁰C, if we want to restrict the rise to under 2⁰C then substantial changes in consumption patterns will be needed.  The report also highlights the importance of considering climate adaptation and mitigation in tendem, of looking at consumption based impacts (ie. Including the embedded emissions in imported foods as well as those arising from production for UK consumption) and argues that  simply providing consumers with information while necessary, is not sufficient – stronger measures are also needed.

The citation for the report is as follows: Bows A, Dawkins E, Mander S, McLachlan C, Röder M, Thom L, Thornley P and Wood R (2012). What’s Cooking? Adaptation & mitigation in the UK food system.  A report prepared by the Sustainable Consumption Institute at The University of Manchester, UK.

And you can download it here and read the press release here

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Europe is the world's second-smallest continent by surface area, covering just over 10 million square kilometres or 6.8% of the global land area, but it is the third-most populous continent after Asia and Africa, with a population of around 740 million people or about 11% of the world's population. Its climate is heavily affected by warm Atlantic currents that temper winters and summers on much of the continent. In the European Union, farmers represent only 4.7% of the working population, yet manage nearly half of its land area.

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