Council leader asks Alok Sharma to make food a higher priority at COP26

We have added our name to a list of signatories on a letter asking COP26 President, Alok Sharma, to make food systems a higher priority at the climate change conference to be held in Glasgow later this year.

COP26, the 2021 United Nations Conference on Climate Change, was originally planned to take place last year but was pushed back due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now scheduled for November 2021, it will bring together world leaders to discuss how they can step up efforts to deliver on climate targets that were set out in the Paris Agreement, that were agreed in 2015.

The letter, written by Nourish Scotland, outlines issues with the current approach to food production, consumption and food waste, and the reasons why a change in philosophy is desperately needed.

It is recognised that the UK Government is already showing leadership on an integrated approach to food policy with its national food strategy for England but that the UK has an even greater opportunity to show global leadership with the spotlight that comes with hosting an international conference on climate change.

By giving a stronger focus to addressing the problems with the current global approach to food and embedded food systems, COP26 can drive change in policy, knowledge and investment and initiate a transition to more sustainable food systems.

A problem that needs to be addressed at a global scale

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, leader of the council, said: “The UN conference on climate change in November, known as COP26, is an historic opportunity to let world leaders know that not enough is being done to reduce the impact of current food practices on the climate.

“A third of the dangerous ‘greenhouse’ gases which are harming the environment come from food, so how we produce food, what we consume, and the level of food waste are central to our drive to be carbon neutral by 2030. Food production is also contributing to a reduction in biodiversity and producing devastating effects across the globe, and this must change. 

“In Brighton & Hove, we are determined to improve our relationship with food and food waste, but this is a problem that needs to be addressed at a global scale, where world leaders need to take up the responsibility for making systematic changes in food production, distribution and waste.

“We’re working hard as a city to change the local approach to food, which is shown through Brighton & Hove becoming the first city in the UK to be awarded the Gold Sustainable Food City Award. 

"But we also recognise this is a global problem that affects everyone, and this is why in November we signed the Glasgow Declaration - but we cannot do this alone. While we as cities will play our part, making our cities more resilient to fluctuations to food supply, we need all our national governments to play their part. 

“I implore Alok Sharma, the President of COP26 to prioritise food at the conference later this year, and use this international platform to address the incredibly harmful effects from the current system of food production on the climate and push for real change.”

City actions

Brighton & Hove declared climate and biodiversity emergencies in 2018 and late last year, citizens in Brighton & Hove took part in the city’s first Climate Assembly and the UK’s first Youth Climate Assembly. 

The recommendations from the Climate Assembly on how to reduce carbon emissions from transport were reported to the council in January, and will be considered when considering the next iteration of the Local Transport Plan later this year.

The council has also developed a Carbon Neutral Programme across all its services, from reducing waste and conserving energy and water, to decarbonising transport and supporting green growth and the circular economy. 

In the tail end of last year, Brighton & Hove became the first city in the UK to be awarded the Gold Sustainable Food Places Award by the Sustainable Food Places programme, made up of the Soil Association, Food Matters and Sustain.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, leader of the council, also joined leaders of European cities by signing a letter calling for ambitious climate action across Europe last October.

Find out more about Brighton & Hove's commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and read the letter to Alok Sharma, asking to prioritise food systems at COP26.

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