Sustainable Bites 17.01.24
Welcome to our biweekly round-up of food, sustainability and hospitality news bites. Dig in…
THE AMUSE BOUCHE…
- UK children choose ‘climate change’ as Word of the Year
- New study demands an end to factory farming for the sake of human health
- China proposes new target for better air quality
- Global renewable energy capacity expanding exponentially
- New toolkit to help Britain’s farmers navigate nature markets
- Municipal composting now mandatory in France
AND FOR THE MAIN
UK children choose ‘climate change’ as Word of the Year
‘Climate change’ has been chosen as the Children's Word of the Year, based on a survey of over 5,000 children across the UK.
Oxford University Press has been running the Children's Word of the Year survey since 2014 and says that current events often influence the selection. For example, ‘coronavirus’ was the word chosen in 2020.
One-third of children (33%) said climate change was their word of the year for 2023. Coming in second was ‘war’ (31%) with ‘coronation’ in third place (24%).
Helen Freeman, Director of the Children's Division of Oxford University Press, said the choice of ‘climate change’ as word of the year showed how willing children were "to engage with meaningful change". However, with many children surveyed sharing that the phrase made them feel "scared", "sad" and "worried", we struggle to see this as anythign other than depressing.
New study demands an end to factory farming for the sake of human health
While the study focused specifically on the UK, the findings have global relevance for industrial pig and poultry farming.
The report emphasises that “there is exceptionally strong evidence for a link between low animal welfare levels and high zoonotic risks, exacerbated by animal crowding, low genetic diversity, compromised hygiene, and high animal stress levels which compromise immune systems.”
As a result, the authors “strongly discourage granting any planning applications for new or expanding industrialised intensive animal farms, especially poultry and pig farms or a mix thereof, and especially in areas with high existing concentrations of intensive animal farms.”
The report recommends that efforts should instead concentrate on supporting a transition towards arable agriculture and on de-intensifying the remaining livestock farms.
Zoonotic diseases are infectious diseases that can spread from animals to humans. Examples include the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the 1997 and 2020 outbreaks of bird flu and the swine flu outbreak in 2009.
Professor Andrew Knight, a co-author of the study, said that intensive pig and poultry farms should not be permitted at large scale or in close proximity as a matter of protecting human health. “There is exceptionally strong evidence for a link between low animal welfare levels and high disease transmission risks. These environments are fertile breeding grounds for the emergence of new influenza pandemics and other dangerous diseases."
China proposes new target for better air quality
China has proposed new targets for improved air quality as part of its green and low-carbon development. The country aims to reduce the national average concentration of fine particulate matter – a measure of air quality – to less than 28 micrograms per cubic metre by 2027 and less than 25 micrograms by 2035.
While these targets are significantly higher than WHO recommendations, they are an improvement on China’s previous "interim" air quality standard, which was set at 35 micrograms per cubic metre.
The latest WHO guidelines (2021) are based on evidence that even low levels of air pollution have severe health impacts in cities around the globe. In fact, the WHO now recognises air pollution as the single biggest environmental threat to human health, with exposure estimated to cause 7 million premature deaths each year.
The proposal defines key focus areas including the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and the Yangtze River Delta. In these regions, the goal will be to control the amount of fine particulate matter and reduce the emission of pollutants. The plan also includes an ultra-low emission upgrade for steel and cement manufacture and other high-emitting industries.
China is the world's top carbon emitter, but has reinforced its objective to achieve carbon peak by 2030 and carbon neutral by 2060.
Global renewable energy capacity expanding exponentially
The latest annual report published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) has revealed a significant acceleration in renewables deployment year-on-year in 2023. If this rate is maintained going forward, this means that it is possible we can achieve a global goal agreed at COP28: to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity by 2030.
World governments agreed to triple renewable energy generation capacity by 2030 and move away from fossil fuels at the COP28 UN climate conference in Dubai last December.
According to the IEA, the world is now on track to grow renewable energy capacity to 7,300GW by 2028 – 33% more than what was predicted in the last annual report from the IEA. If this prediction is correct, we will see renewables overtake coal to become the largest global source of electricity generation in 2025.
While progress over the past 12 months has been “unprecedented”, the IEA has emphasised that more work must be done in terms of policy if we are to accelerate and maintain the scale and pace of the transition to renewable energy. Executive Director of the IEA, Fatih Birol, said one significant challenge would be the current “difficult macroeconomic environment”, with crippling supply chain costs stalling or even stopping numerous large projects.
A further challenge will be ensuring that the global renewable energy boom is not concentrated in a select few wealthy markets. Birol said the successful delivery of the Global Decarbonisation Accelerator goal depends on ensuring that emerging and developing economies are not left behind. "In the absence of any help for African and low-income countries in Asia and Latin America, they will not be able to reach their clean energy targets. That will be a fault line in reaching the 2030 goal.”
New toolkit to help Britain’s farmers navigate nature markets
Nature markets involve the sale and purchase of ecosystem services, or services provided by nature. Examples include things like carbon sequestered or emissions avoided, which can be sold as carbon credits to businesses looking to offset their carbon footprint; or improved biodiversity, which can be sold to property developers as biodiversity units. As landholders, farmers may be in a position to sell these ecosystem services through improvements to their own natural capital.
Commissioned last year by the UK Government’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), The ‘Farming Toolkit’ was launched last Thursday, 11th January. This free resource has been designed to support England’s farming community in understanding and navigating emerging nature market opportunities, and will be updated as markets and policy evolve.
Developed with input from GFI experts and over 100 farmers, the toolkit is suitable for all farm sizes, sub-sectors and regions. It takes into account the particular challenges that tenant farmers will face in regards to involving landlords to the right extent and maintaining fair access to financial rewards.
The Toolkit consists of two parts. The Introduction to Nature Markets introduces the concept of nature markets to farmers, provides an overview of those that currently exist in England, outlines why farmers may want to participate and addresses some key concerns and common questions.
The second section provides a step-by-step guide for how nature market projects are developed in practice, with 10 milestones that guide farmers through the process of engaging in nature markets.
Defra and the Environment Agency are currently welcoming funding applications from farmers seeking to partake in a third round of the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NERIF). This fund provides grants to nature restoration project managers, intended to support them in exploring the monetisation of nature-based gains and carbon benefits, and this round has been launched specifically for farmers. The NERIF application round will close on February 16th, with individual grants of up to £100,000 available.
NERIF Programme Manager Andy Slaney said, “Understanding the opportunities that nature markets provide can feel like a daunting prospect. This pioneering GFI Farming Toolkit is an invaluable resource for the farming community when considering how to enhance nature and improve the climate resilience of their businesses whilst seeking to maintain a suitable income. We want nature markets to help the farming community transition to a sustainable state, this Toolkit will help anyone embarking on that journey.”
Chief Executive of The Tenant Farmers Association George Dunn said, “It is of vital importance that farmers are rewarded for their work in delivering environmental outcomes and the management of natural capital.”
A SWEET TREAT TO FINISH…
Municipal composting now mandatory in France
As of January 1st, new 'compost obligatoire' rules in France have rendered organic waste recycling mandatory. With support from the government’s Green Fund, local authorities must provide residents with ways to sort bio-waste, which includes food scraps, vegetable peels, expired food and garden waste.
Households and businesses are required to dispose of organic waste either in a dedicated small bin for home collection or at a municipal collection point. The waste will then be turned into biogas or compost to replace chemical fertilisers.
Food waste has an enormous environmental impact. Across the entire EU food system, food waste is responsible for about 16% of total emissions. Globally, around 8% of all human-caused emissions are caused by food loss and waste. There is much room for improvement in how we tackle this issue; according to Zero Waste Europe, just 34% of total bio-waste was collected in 2018, “leaving a staggering 40 million tonnes of potential soil nutrients to be discarded, polluting our environment and squandering invaluable resources. Our environment, our communities, and our future generations deserve better.”
Bio-waste collection is being encouraged under the EU’s Waste Framework Directive. While this stops short of setting mandatory targets, we hope to see more European countries rolling out this sort of initiative.
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