Ben Elliot

How cutting food waste could help solve the climate change crisis

If the recent remonstrations around climate change have been anything to go by, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the government has been dragging its feet on the environment for some time. Doubtlessly, one could quibble about whether more could be done in less time, but – sorry protestors – the idea that nothing is happening simply isn’t true. Last year, climate change minister Claire Perry asked independent experts to scope out a net zero target for greenhouse gas emissions (which it recently completed, recommending we do so). Environment secretary Michael Gove has been ceaseless in his drive to restore our natural world to its verdant best. Alongside a host of other things, he’s even installed me as the government’s ‘Food Surplus and Waste Champion’ to try and clamp down on Britain’s monumental problem of perfectly good food being squandered each and every day. If you’re scratching your head wondering why food has anything to do with climate change, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Recent figures from a food waste charity revealed less than one in three of us know that it does. Sadly, this blissful ignorance is now too big an issue to ignore. When food is thrown away, it breaks down and releases methane, a greenhouse gas with considerably more global warming potential that its more infamous cousin, carbon dioxide. Altogether, if the emissions from food waste across the year were totted up as an individual ‘country’, it’d be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after only the US and China. It goes without saying that the agriculture involved in growing all our food also harms the environment in other ways, such as through the use of pesticides and by contributing to habitat loss. This is therefore an issue affecting each and every one of us, so it’s only right that public solutions are required.

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