Policy Briefing: Food security in a nature and climate crisis

The biggest risks to food security in the medium term come from climate change and loss of nature. Our food supply will not be secure if we continue to erode the nature which underpins production.

A sunset over a barley meadow with hills in the background.
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Addressing the nature and climate crises will require significant changes to current land and sea use across the UK. As 70% of our land is farmed, it is crucial that land use change be managed to support, not compromise, food security. At sea there is scope for sustainably harvested seafood to form part of a low impact diet, but we are failing to manage production sustainably, jeopardising future stocks.

The IPCC states that climate change is already directly affecting food security and nutrition (FSN), which “exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Recent definitions of FSN have emphasised the importance of sustainability, where the continued degradation of our natural resources and rapid declines in biodiversity directly impact our ability to achieve long-term food security.

The way we use our land and sea must provide the basis for sustainable and healthy diets, whilst at the same time providing more space for wildlife and nature-based solutions to climate change. Managing our seas and productive land differently, for example through agroecological approaches and sustainable seafood production, can help provide: food for sustainable and healthy diets; net carbon sequestration; significantly reduced pollution; and space for nature and action on climate change.

Our policy recommendations

  1. Action to deliver and support the transition to sustainable, nature and climate friendly land management including the development of country level land use strategies to guide best use of land, agricultural investment schemes to cover the true cost of sustainable farming and support farmers making the transition to nature and climate friendly farming helping to safeguard future productive capacity.
  2. Policy interventions and promotion of educational efforts and campaigns to the shift to sustainable and healthy diets, including aligning meat, fish and dairy intake with recommended dietary levels and increased consumption of local, seasonal produce.
  3. Interventions to strengthen local food systems to provide a greater diversity of routes to market providing producers to secure a greater share of the value of the food they produce and increase resilience in the market.
  4. Support mechanisms for low-income households access to healthy, sustainable food such as provision of nutritious meals in schools, hospitals and other public institutions.
  5. Action to reduce, and where possible eliminate, food waste at the household and supply chain levels in line with the UK government commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goal to reduce per capita food system waste 50% by 2030.

Nature underpins production

Whatever the land and marine management approach, it should be appropriate to the local area and sustainable in the long-term. We stress that nature and climate friendly farming, crofting and seafood production practices can deliver vital ecosystem services and climate change mitigation, but also result in greater resilience and climate adaptation potential within farming and fishing systems, with positive knock-on effects for food security.

On farm, nature can support food production through increased habitat for pollinators, natural pest control, reductions in soil erosion and promotion of healthier, living soils which can reduce reliance on expensive and environmentally damaging artificial inputs.

The current challenges we face across the food and farming sector require policy shifts towards supporting nature and climate friendly practices for all types of food production, aligning consumption with sustainable and healthy diets and greater action to decrease food waste.

Action is needed in multiple policy areas including supporting agricultural and fisheries transition to sustainable models; greater knowledge transfer to bring the majority in line with best practice; food waste reduction; sustainable and healthy diets uptake; poverty alleviation and access to food to move us to a food secure, net zero and nature positive future.

Download full policy briefing - Food security in a nature and climate crisis

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Lucy Bjorck

Senior Agriculture Policy Officer


Last Updated: Wednesday 10 August 2022

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