Mailing 1 December 2011

This mailing is compiled by Ben Keeley, FCRN intern, as Tara has taken a mini-sabbatical. Tara will be back later in December.


New policy report: Agriculture and Climate Change

In June 2011, the Meridian Institute published a scoping report which provided an analysis of the complex issues relating to agriculture and climate change.  In November, the institute released a summary version, entitled Agriculture and Climate Change Policy Brief: Main Issues for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Beyond’.

This summary report argues that agriculture is different from other sectors of society and economy when considered in the context of climate change.  It points out that agriculture is essential for food security and income generation, affects critical ecosystem services and also holds potential for contributing to GHG mitigation.  In light of these multiple contributions and unique features, it suggests that agriculture would benefit from distinct treatment in the context of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The report recommends that actions need to be taken in the agricultural sector, in relation to the need to, provide adequate food for growing populations to protecting the environment, and ensure resilience to future climatic changes. 

It identifies that finance, technology and capacity are essential to enable effective adaptation and to motivate emission reductions from the agricultural sector.  Finally, it recognises that adopting new agricultural practices requires access to new technologies; modification of existing ones; and additional capacity at the farm, policy, and scientific levels to implement such measures.

The report can be read here.

Publication: 'Achieving a Healthy Sustainable Diet: An Integrated Approach’ – a series of papers published in the Nutrition Bulletin

The December edition of the journal Nutrition Bulletin, published by the British Nutrition Foundation, examines the complex nutrition and health factors associated with the challenge of achieving a sustainable and secure food supply.  The issue, entitled ‘Achieving a Healthy Sustainable Diet: an Integrated Approach’ contains a series of papers presenting evidence and arguments from all sides of the sustainability debate.  Its topics range from food production and supply, to consumption patterns and public health implications.

Following a foreword by Professor Sir John Beddington, the Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government, the papers address the following topics:

  • Global food supply: a challenge for sustainable agriculture
  • Sustainable consumption - UK Government activity
  • A UK public health perspective: what is a healthy sustainable diet?
  • Challenges and opportunities for sustainable livestock production in the UK
  • Increasing fish consumption for better health - are we being advised to eat more of an inherently unsustainable protein?
  • Securing a sustainable British horticulture industry
  • Does consuming seasonal foods benefit the environment? Insights from recent research
  • Making sustainable choices easier
  • Food and drink waste from households in the UK
  • The food industry perspective: a collection of case studies

The Journal can be accessed here (with subscriptions only).

UNEP synthesis report outlines pathways to reduce CO2e

Timed to coincide with the UN climate convention negotiations in South Africa, this study by UNEP argues that the world has the technological and economic solutions to avert climate change.  The report, entitled ‘Bridging the Emissions Gap’, is the second of three being released by UNEP in advance of the Durban convention.  It examines the scientific evidence on the gap between the pledges that countries have made to cut their GHG emissions and what will be needed to achieve the 2-degree target by 2020 and suggests that the gap can be bridged by making realistic changes in the energy system, in particular the accelerated uptake of renewable energies. 

It specifically identified the potential for reducing global emissions in 2020 in the agricultural sector.  With the use of technically feasible measures, the report suggestsa reduction potential of 1.1 to 4.3 GtCO2 per year through changes in cropland and livestock management. 

The report concludes that policymakers could narrow or close the emissions gap in 2020 by:

  • Agreeing to implement their more ambitious emissions reduction pledges with stricter rules for complying with these pledges;
  • Deciding to target their energy systems, using more non-fossil fuel and renewable energy sources, and making significant improvements in energy efficiency; and
  • Putting in place strong, long-term, sector-specific polices to achieve the full emissions potential of the different economic sectors.

You can access the report here.

The first report in the series, titled ‘The Emissions Gap Report’, can be downloaded here.

Coverage of the report can be read here.

New Report: Climate change impacts on the biophysics and economics of world fisheries

Sumaila, U, R., Cheung, W, W, L., Lam, V, W, Y., Pauly, D., & Herrick, S. Climate change impacts on the biophysics and economics of world fisheries. Nature Climate Change, 2011; DOI.

This study, led by the University of British Columbia shows how the effects of climate change can impact the profitability of fisheries.  A key conclusion is that Governments should plan and anticipate, rather than react to the potential negative impacts of climate change on the economic viability of current fisheries practices.


Global marine fisheries are underperforming economically because of overfishing, pollution and habitat degradation. Added to these threats is the looming challenge of climate change. Observations, experiments and simulation models show that climate change would result in changes in primary productivity, shifts in distribution and changes in the potential yield of exploited marine species, resulting in impacts on the economics of fisheries worldwide. Despite the gaps in understanding climate change effects on fisheries, there is sufficient scientific information that highlights the need to implement climate change mitigation and adaptation policies to minimize impacts on fisheries.

To read the study, see here.  

Coverage by ScienceDaily can be read here.

Wilton Park conference proceedings - Global land use: policies for the future

In September, Wilton Park hosted a conference on ‘Global Land Use: Policies for the future’. The conference was the second in a series on ‘Agriculture, food and land use: the international policy challenges’.  The conference considered the world’s uneven distribution of arable land; the state and benefits of its soils; the role of ecosystems services; the impacts of biofuel production on land use patterns; technologies such as genetic modification and hydroponics to improve yields and/or reduce the need for land; and investment in land abroad for food production and speculative purposes. It explored the international and national policy responses necessary to encourage sustainable and multi-functional land use.

Key conclusions of the meeting include:

  • Policies concerning land must take account of geographical diversity.  Links between food production and ecosystems need to be made in policy terms;
  • The sustainable intensification of food production can be achieved through both high- and low-tech solutions. Policies must be context specific;
  • Investment in Africa is welcome but attention is needed to ensure that local populations are among the beneficiaries;
  • A reduction in consumption in developed countries would have significant impacts on land use around the world.  However, this is thought to be an unpalatable message, which governments are unlikely to endorse; and
  • Future research agendas need to consider the use of both traditional and modern technologies to enhance the efficient use of energy, nutrients and water, and to increase research into soils.

You can download the report here, or more directly here.

You can listen to the conference on podcast from here.

Defra calls for two research proposals in public sector buying standards; schools and hospitals

Defra are requesting research proposals for two projects around Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering (GBS). The GBS covers sustainable sourcing, nutrition and efficiency in catering operations, including waste and energy efficiency.  The outsourced projects, to cover GBS in schools and hospitals, will pilot studies identifying challenges, barriers and opportunities that exist in introducing GBS, with on-going reporting to Defra.


Research aims and objectives – To pilot the introduction of Government Buying Standards into hospitals in England.

Detailed requirements – A pilot study to be completed if possible within the 2011-12 financial year.  A small number (2-4) of hospitals/Hospital Trusts will be selected and agree to participate. The contractor will work with each hospital to introduce the Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services into their catering and hospitality provision, including all aspects of the GBS apart from those that are exceeded by existing law relating to provision of hospital food.


Research aims and objectives – To pilot the introduction of Government Buying Standards into schools in England.

Detailed requirements - A pilot study to be completed if possible within the 2011-12 financial year.  A small number (6-8) of schools will be selected  and agree to participate. The contractor will work with each school to introduce the Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services into their catering and hospitality provision, including all aspects of the GBS apart from those that are exceeded by existing law relating to provision of school food.

Deadline for applications is on 2nd December 2011.

Further details of both research projects can be found here

Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum on Food Price, Commodities and Food Security - 24th April

'Food price, commodities and food security’, 9.00AM-1.00PM, Tuesday 24th April, 2012.

Following the price spikes in 2008 and high levels of food inflation in early 2011, this Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum Keynote Seminar will seek to address the following questions: What is the current outlook for food prices at a global level?  With factors influencing food price including other commodities prices and global environmental change, how are prices likely to change over the next decade?  What effect has financial speculation in food commodities on volatility in the market?

Speakers include: David Hallam, Director, Trade and Markets Division, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (UNFAO); Helen Browning, Food and Farming Director, Soil Association; Sue Davies, Chief Policy Advisor, Which?; Thomas Hind, Director of Corporate Affairs, NFU.

For more details and to make a reservation see here. 

Event at The Royal Society: ‘The Global Nitrogen Cycle’, 5-6th December

'The Global Nitrogen Cycle’, 5th-6th December 2011

The focus of this event is on the current understanding of the global nitrogen cycle and the extent to which it has been modified by human activities.  The meeting will consider processes regulating the atmosphere and their effects on climate, terrestrial and marine ecosystems and human health, and the likely trends through this century.

For further details of the event, see here.

Lunchtime Seminar on ‘Elements for a Sociological Theory of Household Food Waste’ – 5th Dec

‘Elements for a Sociological Theory of Household Food Waste’, 5th December 2011

David Evans, lecturer in Sociology and a Sustainable Consumption Institute research fellow at the University of Manchester will be speaking on the sociological explanations for household food waste.  The event is run by the BSA Food Study Group and hosted at Westminster University.

For further details see here.

New Book: ‘Virtuous Circles: Values, Systems and Sustainability’, authored by Andy Jones, Michel Pimbert and Janice Jiggins

'Virtuous Circles: Values, Systems and Sustainability’, a recently published book by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), articulates an alternative future in which food, energy and water supplies are sustainable and in the control of local communities.  It focuses on local communities as the driver of alternative means of designing resilient food systems.

The book argues that the linear systems that shape our world are flawed, as they assume a limitless supply of resources and a limitless capacity for the environment to absorb waste and pollution.  The authors call instead for circular systems that mimic natural cycles to produce food, energy, materials and clean water.

The book can be downloaded for free here