We need to talk about ...

Climate change

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Rod Addy discusses climate change and the food industryy's role in the conversation
Rod Addy discusses climate change and the food industryy's role in the conversation

Related tags Climate change

In his latest column, Provision Trade Federation director general Rod Addy talks global warming and the food and drink industry’s place in the climate change debate.

At a recent networking event I ran separately into two representatives of the food industry – one on the retail side and another working for a supplier. To provoke debate, I mischievously asked each: is humanity doomed as a species because of its impact on the natural world? Without caveats or a trace of optimism, both answered flatly: ‘yes’.

One could argue they are closer to the latest climate change developments than many, so perhaps they might be gloomier than most. Others might claim it’s in their interests to talk up the situation because it keeps them in jobs.

There had also been several recent national press articles covering depressing environmental developments that would have dampened the enthusiasm of anyone working on green strategies.

An inconvenient truth

For instance, the World Meteorological Organisation reported in May that global temperatures would breach for the first time the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold increase on pre-industrial levels within five years. And just over one month ago, the Climate Change Committee revealed the Government was set to miss its 2030 climate targets on nearly every front.

Still, I found their responses disturbing. These are people employed to devise food industry solutions to global warming.

Separately, I have attended webinars exploring how two political parties are putting their manifestos together in the run-up to the general election – now likely to be less than 18 months away. Participants at both asked how policy makers were approaching issues related to the environment and sustainability. The line was that these topics would not be a big focus because they are not vote winners: according to polls, most of the electorate is simply not prioritising such things.

Here we come to potentially the greatest fault line in modern politics. On the one hand, we’re presented daily with news of the relentless impacts of extreme weather, which are exacerbated by global warming – droughts across Europe and wildfires on Rhodes, for example. On the other, we have lamentably weak leadership when it comes to tackling the situation at Government level.

Solving practical problems

I get it. One only needs to look at the opposition to the roll out of the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone in London or wind turbines in rural areas to realise practical ideas for addressing climate change are controversial. They may not also be front of mind in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis. However, global warming is getting worse, and its impacts will erode food security, pushing up food chain costs and consumer prices and prolonging food poverty.

This is why I do not avoid attracting attention to the environmental challenges facing the food industry.  That coupled with the fact that the industry is well aware of them and isn’t avoiding them either.

Animal-based food producers are implementing some of the best ways to mitigate climate impact while maintaining food security precisely because they are in the spotlight – answers that are more nuanced than simply ditching meat and dairy. The web pages of Food Manufacture are inundated by examples of what the sector is doing. Some may be greenwash. However, a lot isn’t.

I am honestly proud of what the industry is achieving. We cannot allow ourselves to become mired in negative media coverage and despair. We need to work with Government now on a clear, informed strategy and direction. Otherwise, we ultimately leave ourselves open to half-baked fire-fighting legislation based on an incomplete understanding of the science. And that could be a lot more damaging for industry and the planet.

Related topics Environment

Related news

Show more

Follow us

Featured Jobs

View more


Food Manufacture Podcast

Listen to the Food Manufacture podcast