FOOD NOT ON THE AGENDA!
At COP26, where world leaders congregated to negotiate commitments that would keep within a 1.5-degree global temperature rise, food was not on the agenda.
Considering that food systems create around a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, this does not make sense. Food is at the centre of the crises of our era, being the single biggest contributor to biodiversity loss and responsible for the malnourishment of millions of people worldwide.[i]
Food is the single biggest contributor to biodiversity loss and responsible for the malnourishment of millions of people worldwide
It’s easy to feel rage at the failed promises of so many global leaders when the time to reshape our world and halt the climate crisis is almost up. At these moments, we need to recognise the power and value of small-scale change.
Food has risen up political agendas and become an area of public concern. This is due in part to the Covid pandemic, which for many places – including London – exposed the fragility of our food system.
GLASGOW FOOD AND CLIMATE DECLARATION
Although food wasn’t central to COP negotiations, leaders of subnational governments from all over the world have signed the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration, committing to develop sustainable food policies and promote mechanisms for joined-up action. They’ve also called on national governments to put food and farming at the heart of the global response to the climate emergency.
Tower Hamlets Council is one of just two London boroughs that signed the Declaration, signalling their local, cross-sector and collaborative approach to shaping a just and sustainable urban food system.[ii]
Representatives from various National Food Partnerships at the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration event during COP. (Jo Wilson, Tower Hamlets Food Partnership Coordinator wearing the mask)
Tower Hamlets council is one of the first boroughs to declare a climate emergency and committing to being a net zero emissions council by 2025 – 5 years earlier than most
By being one of the first boroughs to declare a climate emergency and committing to being a net zero emissions council by 2025 – 5 years earlier than most – the council is not afraid of making bold commitments. As coordinators of the Tower Hamlets Food Partnership, we will keep reminding them that a sustainable food system will not only reduce carbon emissions, but also health inequalities; and will not only improve biodiversity, but also the local economy.
THE NATIONAL FOOD STRATEGY
Of course, the national government could facilitate the shift through leadership and resources. The National Food Strategy, published in July 2021, laid out a clear roadmap to change all facets of the food system, from farming and production to education and procurement. The government’s due to respond in the form of a White Paper early next year.
But it’s in communities that change really happens. The council needs to follow its commitments with bold, enabling policy change, supported by the Tower Hamlets Food Partnership and evidenced by ambitious projects like Just FACT, our five-year programme to co-create a low-carbon, socially just food system with residents and partner organisations.
How can you help keep the pressure up?
- Join the Tower Hamlets Food Partnership! Anyone can join, and we particularly welcome those with lived experience of food challenges and injustices.
- Talk to your local councillors about the importance of nourishing and sustainable food to the Covid recovery. You could base your message on the Food Partnership’s Principles for a Just and Sustainable Food Recovery.
- Write to your MP about the importance of local food systems, and the need for a response to the National Food Strategy responses as soon as possible.
- Follow the work of our national Sustainable Food Places partners, including Sustain, Food Matters and Soil Association, all of whom are working
[i] National Food Strategy, an independent review for government, 2021 https://www.nationalfoodstrategy.org/