How much do food miles matter; should you buy local produce?

Despite a study claiming that food-mile emissions are higher than previously thought, eating less animal produce remains much more important than how far your food travels

Eat locally to reduce food miles and your carbon footprint. That is the message promoted by some environmentalists and businesses, but it has long been clear that often this isn’t true – foods that travel thousands of kilometres can have a lower carbon footprint than local produce.

At least, that is what many studies have found. But research published today in the journal Nature Food claims that global food miles account for 20 per cent of food-related emissions – a much higher proportion than reported in earlier work. So do food miles matter more than we thought? Spoiler: no, they don’t.

The production of the food we eat is responsible for more than a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, so reducing food-related emissions is crucial to limiting further global heating. The question is, what should consumers do to help reduce these emissions?

 

Previous studies have found that the emissions from food miles – the distance that food has to be transported from where it is produced to where it is eaten, measured in kilometres travelled multiplied by the tonnage – are tiny compared with those from growing that food.

Emissions can be calculated based on how the food is transported – by air or by sea, for instance. A study of US diets by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania concluded that transporting food from farms to shops produces just 4 per cent of food-related emissions, while a 2018 study of European diets put it at 6 per cent.

What this means is that if you want to reduce the carbon footprint of your diet, you should focus on buying foods with lower overall carbon footprints rather than those that don’t have to travel far. This basically means eating less meat and dairy.

For instance, producing 1 kilogram of beef can emit as much as 99 kg of carbon dioxide or equivalents, and making a kilogram of cheese emits up to 24 kg, compared with 0.9 kg for bananas and 0.4 kg for apples.

In other words, what you eat matters to a far greater extent than where it comes from. What’s more, even with the same food types, local isn’t always better. For instance, if you live in a nation with a cooler climate where tomatoes can be grown only using heated greenhouses, these local tomatoes will typically have a higher carbon footprint than those shipped in from a warmer country where no heating is needed.

The latest study doesn’t overturn any of this. For starters, the main reason why it concludes that food miles account for such a high proportion of food-related emissions is that the 20 per cent figure includes all the transport involved, including that of fertilisers, farm equipment and pesticides, not just the transport of food.

“Our study looks at the entire supply chain for food consumption, and naturally non-food commodities are part of it,” says team member Mengyu Li at the University of Sydney in Australia.

It is worthwhile to estimate this, but the team should use a term other than “food miles” to avoid confusion, rather than redefining the existing term, says Hannah Ritchie at the University of Oxford, who is head of research at Our World in Data.

If the standard definition were applied to the numbers in the study, food miles would account for only 9 per cent of food-related emissions, says Ritchie. That is much closer to previous research, though she thinks it is still an overestimate.

What’s more, the study itself calculates that even if it were possible to produce all food in the countries where it is eaten, food-related emissions would fall by only 1.7 per cent overall. This is because although food wouldn’t travel as far, more of it would be transported by road instead of sea, says Li, and trucks produce higher emissions per tonne of cargo than ships.

“So, overall, the bottom line is still that what you eat has a much bigger impact on emissions than the distance that food has to travel to reach you,” says Ritchie.

Do not work for ‘climate wreckers’, UN head tells graduates

The UN secretary general has told new university graduates not to take up careers with the “climate wreckers” – companies that drive the extraction of fossil fuels.

António Guterres addressed thousands of graduates at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, US, on Tuesday. “You must be the generation that succeeds in addressing the planetary emergency of climate change,” he said. “Despite mountains of evidence of looming climate catastrophe, we still see mountains of funding for coal and fossil fuels that are killing our planet.

“But we know investing in fossil fuels is a dead end – no amount of greenwashing or spin can change that. So we must put them on notice: accountability is coming for those who liquidate our future.”

He added: “You hold the cards. Your talent is in demand from multinational companies and big financial institutions. You will have plenty of opportunities to choose from. My message to you is simple: don’t work for climate wreckers. Use your talents to drive us towards a renewable future.”

Guterres has become increasingly outspoken on the climate crisis in recent months, telling world leaders in April: “Our addiction to fossil fuels is killing us.”

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Farmers in England will bury burnt wood in fields to capture CO2

A large trial is underway to see how much CO2 can be removed from the atmosphere by burying a charcoal-like material in fields
Biochar

Farmers in England are starting to bury a charcoal-like material in their fields to see if it could offer a new large-scale way of putting the brakes on climate change.

Biochar is the carbon-rich material left over from burning wood and other biomass at high temperatures in an oxygen-free environment. Most of its use today is at the small scale, such as gardeners using it as a fertiliser.

However, a team led by Colin Snape at the University of Nottingham, UK, has started burying up to 200 tonnes of biochar in fields to gauge if it could help meet the UK’s net-zero goal by removing millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It is the biggest biochar trial yet in the UK, and one of several CO2 removal ideas in a £31.5 million research programme, including scattering rock dust on fields and planting more trees.

 

“The key thing is that all of these greenhouse gas removal technologies, we need to test their viability. We need to figure out how big a slice of the pie biochar is. It’s about not putting all our eggs into one basket, of one magical technology that will save us,” says Genevieve Hodgins, who is managing the biochar project.

Around 15 tonnes of biochar is in the ground already, and more farmers are being recruited across the Midlands region of England this spring and summer to begin widespread burials this autumn. Beyond tackling climate change, a big attraction for farmers is that research indicates biochar can improve soil health, which is in a parlous state in England.

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Shell consultant quits, accusing firm of ‘extreme harms’ to environment

Caroline Dennett tells staff in video she made decision because of ‘double-talk on climate’

A senior safety consultant has quit working with Shell after 11 years, accusing the fossil fuel producer in a bombshell public video of causing “extreme harms” to the environment.

Caroline Dennett claimed Shell had a “disregard for climate change risks” and urged others in the oil and gas industry to “walk away while there’s still time”.

The executive, who works for the independent agency Clout, ended her working relationship with Shell in an open letter to its executives and 1,400 employees. In an accompanying video, posted on LinkedIn, she said she had quit because of Shell’s “double-talk on climate”.

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Climate group sues Dutch airline KLM over ‘greenwashing’ advert

Environmental campaigners are suing the Dutch airline KLM over “greenwashing” adverts they say misleadingly promote the sustainability of flying.

Lawyers from ClientEarth are supporting Fossielvrij NL, a Netherlands-based campaign group, to bring a claim that KLM’s ad campaigns give a false impression of the sustainability of its flights and its plans to address its impact on the climate.

“KLM’s marketing misleads consumers into believing that its flights won’t worsen the climate emergency. But this is a myth,” said Hiske Arts, a campaigner at Fossielvrij NL.

“Unchecked flying is one of the fastest ways to heat up the planet. Customers need to be informed and protected from claims that suggest otherwise.”

Activists from Fossielvrij NL submitted a pre-action letter to Air France KLM, KLM’s parent company, during its AGM in Paris on Tuesday. Their legal action takes aim at KLM’s “Fly Responsibly” campaign, which presents the airline as “creating a more sustainable future”.

Read here:
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/may/24/climate-group-sues-dutch-airline-klm-over-adverts

This climate crisis report asks: what is at stake? In short, everything

Analysis: Major IPCC report, approved by 195 countries, lays bare devastating harm caused by unchecked global heating

“A liveable and sustainable future for all”. It is the very last words of the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that spell out what is at stake. In short, it is everything.
 
The damage from global heating is already hitting hard. The comprehensive IPCC assessment, which is based on 34,000 studies, documents “widespread and pervasive” impacts on people and the natural world from increasingly frequent and intense heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, storms and floods. Some impacts are now irreversible.
 

Can a tech billionaire squash Australia’s coal industry by buying it?

Frustrated with the Australian government’s inaction on climate change, software king Mike Cannon-Brookes is trying to buy several big coal plants so he can shut them down in favour of renewables

Mike Cannon-Brookes, the third-richest person in Australia, has launched an audacious bid to buy the country’s biggest electricity company – and shut its coal-fired power plants. It is a bold approach to decarbonisation, but can he pull it off?

Australia currently produces the highest carbon emissions per capita in the world from burning coal for power generation. The country’s government is highly attached to fossil fuels. Not long before becoming the current prime minister, Scott Morrison brought a lump of coal to parliament and announced: “This is coal. Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared, it won’t hurt you.”

Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of software giant Atlassian, has been a vocal critic of the government’s climate inaction. Now, he is using his net worth of A$20 billion to try to take matters into his own hands.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2309157-can-a-tech-billionaire-squash-australias-coal-industry-by-buying-it/

Climate change: Can the UK afford its net zero policies?

With the cost of living rising, are Britain’s plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions too expensive?

 

A small but vocal group of Conservative MPs are arguing that with energy prices soaring, the government should rethink how it reaches what’s known as ‘net-zero’ by 2050.

The group has made a number of key arguments. So what are they saying, and what does the data tell us?

Three years ago the goal of net-zero was written into UK law with the backing of MPs from all sides.

Broadly speaking it’s a commitment to transform the way our economy operates.

Net-zero means not adding to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Achieving it means reducing emissions as much as possible, as balancing out any that remain.

There’s consensus among the world’s scientists that it’s vital if we’re to have a chance of keeping global temperature rises to manageable levels.

Read about this

Plastic packaging increases fresh food waste

Supermarkets should stop selling fresh produce such as apples and potatoes in plastic packaging, research suggests, because it does not make them last longer and adds to pollution and food waste.

The 18-month study by the sustainability charity Wrap, which also looked at sales of bananas, broccoli and cucumbers, debunks the idea that single-use plastic wrappers help prevent waste.

Instead, this packaging often forces people to buy more than they need, increasing the problem of wasted food.

Read the article

After deadly floods, can Germany adapt to its climate future?

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change prepares to release a major report on adapting to climate change, Adam Vaughan visits the site of 2021’s deadly floods in Ahr, Germany, to discover how locals are rebuilding.

“I SAW a tree with people sitting in it, crying and screaming. I could hear them despite all the noise.
But I couldn’t help them. I didn’t know what to do,” says Melanie Schultz-Coerne, crying too as she recalls the traumatic night last year when Germany experienced its worst floods in six decades.
She doesn’t know what happened to the campers she saw, but 134 people in the country’s Ahr valley died during the floods in mid-July, with hundreds more injured.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg25333754-200-after-deadly-floods-can-germany-adapt-to-its-climate-future/

Oil firms’ climate claims are greenwashing, study concludes

Most comprehensive scientific analysis to date finds words are not matched by actions

Accusations of greenwashing against major oil companies that claim to be in transition to clean energy are well-founded, according to the most comprehensive study to date.

The research, published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, examined the records of ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and BP, which together are responsible for more than 10% of global carbon emissions since 1965. The researchers analysed data over the 12 years up to 2020 and concluded the company claims do not align with their actions, which include increasing rather than decreasing exploration

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/feb/16/oil-firms-climate-claims-are-greenwashing-study-concludes?utm_term=620dd653293a7d76d3b14b06409ae6d9&utm_campaign=GuardianTodayUK&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&CMP=GTUK_email

SUVs have the carbon footprint of a major industrial nation

The market for the cars is booming despite campaigns to reduce emissions

Talk of sustainability is everywhere — whether in the installation of heat pumps in our homes, the expanding meat-free sections in our supermarkets, or in the cries of “climate hypocrisy” whenever a politician takes a private jet. One area seemingly unaffected by the green movement, however, is in the high-end sports utility vehicle (SUV) market.

Read here: newstatesman.com/chart

Money Marketing interview with Jan

Profile: Jan Oliff on tragedy that led her to ethical investments

By Amanda Newman Smith 5th November 2018

Jan Oliff on changing the sector’s gender profile and how personal factors led her to be an ethical specialist

Sometimes the reasons people do the jobs they do or hold certain views are intensely personal.
That is the case with Jan, director, Jan Oliff Financial Planning.

Since establishing her own business in 1992, Jan has built a reputation as an ethical investment specialist.

Like many advisers in the field, Jan has generated business through a genuine interest in helping others and aiming to create a better world. But ask her why she became interested in socially responsible investment in the first place and it becomes clear it was for personal reasons rather than business ones.

“My mother died in 1986 at a young age.
Nobody had told her smoking was dangerous and she had lung cancer. I wanted to invest some money that she had left me into something that avoided tobacco. Only the Stewardship fund offered that at the time, so I invested in it and that was my way into the SRI* marketplace,” she says.

Jan believes the SRI* market has gained many supporters as a result of the 2008 financial crisis.

How to get started with ethical investing

“Clients felt let down by financial services around the time of the crisis and people are becoming increasingly aware of issues such as damage to the environment.

“Everyone has their own story and their own values based on personal experience. Some are more interested in governance issues than the environment and vice-versa,” she says. “I have one client who is in her 80s and she wouldn’t invest in gambling because, as a young teacher in Glasgow, she was seeing children coming to school with no shoes on because daddy had spent all the money in the betting shop.”

Five questions

What is the best bit of advice you’ve received in your career?

Don’t retire. It came from my 92-year-old neighbour, a district nurse who retired at 72 and thought it was far too soon.

What keeps you awake at night?

Nothing to do with work. If it was, I’d give it up.

What has had the most significant impact on financial advice in the last year?

Increasing awareness of values and governance.

If I was in charge of the Financial Conduct Authority for a day I would …

Listen to a representative sample of workers as the go-to people for ideas to improve the system and culture.

Any advice for new advisers?

Use your brain and your emotional intellect. Together they are powerful.

Jan was drawn to the financial services world following some tragic personal events that really brought home to her the need for people to plan their finances.

Her sister was widowed at the age of 29 and she sadly lost a friend in a car crash. At the time, her friend had everything to live for; he and his wife had just had a baby and were in the middle of renovating their home. “His wife had to return home to her parents because they had no life insurance,” says Jan .

Wanting to get the message across to people that it was important to be financially resilient, just in case the worst happened, Jan joined Barclays Life in 1981 and stayed there for 11 years. However, by 1992 she had become disillusioned and it was then she decided to set up her own financial advice firm.

“It had become clear that banks were giving priority to selling contracts that made money for them. I left Barclays early in 1992, at a time when the country was in deep recession and jobs were scarce. I’d relocated to Bristol, I had just got married and everything combined to say it would be better to create something,” she says.

So what has it been like for her to do that as a woman in financial services?

“It’s been largely amusing and sometimes frustrating. At times, my physical appearance is the only thing that seems to matter,” she says.

“My frustration comes in at the lack of understanding about the insight and intellect that women can bring to the industry. As head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde recently said if it had been Lehman Sisters rather than Lehman Brothers, we would have avoided the crash. I’m not going to argue with that.”

Jan thinks getting more women into the industry will happen naturally, once men with old-style, sexist attitudes have left.

“The industry will get rid of the wrong type of bloke and more women will come in once they’re gone. Things are a lot better now, but the bad attitudes are still there. Even women have that bad attitude at times. The whole culture in financial services has been one of bullying and disrespect. You have to stand up to it,” she says.

For some women, perhaps the misconception that financial advice is all about facts and figures rather than building relationships and finding solutions to problems puts them off it as a career choice. Jan points out the fact many advisers rely on their para-planners for the more technical side of the job.

“The para-planners are the ones doing the numbers; they do most of the technical stuff. Take a lot of IFAs away from their para-planners and they’d be lost.”

Trust and transparency are things Jan works hard at in relation to her clients. She is a member of Soroptimist International, a global volunteer organisation that has more than 75,000 members in 120 countries. With human rights and gender equality at its heart, the aim is to make women’s voices heard and help fund local causes.

However, Jan believes any sort of volunteering – whether it is charitable work or providing pro bono advice – should be for the right reasons and not to promote a professional service. Her thoughts on creating more widespread consumer trust in advisers are as simple as starting with the way you treat your colleagues and clients.

Should financial advisers be volunteers?

“I truly believe if every practice has a culture of respect for clients and colleagues, so it becomes unacceptable to say abusive or unkind things, if you do that, you gain trust,” she says.

“We are moving forward, as there are many good advisers who are great for the profession. But we need to get rid of the ugly ones as they cost the rest of us a lot in terms of our reputation and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme levies. I’m still confronted by people at conferences that make me think ‘what on earth are you still doing in this profession?’.

“Every profession has this, but I wonder why we tolerate it. We need to encourage those individuals to get out and earn their income elsewhere.”

.

* SRI – Sustainable Responsible Investing

Ever Present Danger, and more

Ever Present Danger

I once asked a friend if the widow of his next door neighbour would receive a life assurance payment.

He, my friend Ernie, was a bit shocked at the question.  It is not something you generally ask the recently bereaved.

It is however something the family care about.

Will we be able to pay the bills this month, this year, in the future?

I know it sounds a tad un-British to ask about money at such a time but here is what I know.  Death or major illnesses intervene when not expected. Having a safety net can make a difference in how you recover from the loss of a loved one or the shock of sickness or injury.

If your busy life has contributed to a heart attack then money at the right time can pay the bills, stopping much of the stress. It can give time for recovery.

In my 35-years career, I have experienced late night calls from worried clients asking “will I be able to pay the mortgage this month. Will I need to sell my home?”

Sickness and death are not just for the elderly but they are an ever-present danger. Most of us, mercifully, will never be harmed at the hands of a terrorist but never the less life rarely treats us kindly.

ISA

I return to the subject of ISAs.

Why? Because I am still hearing people complain about the low interest they are getting on cash ISAs. Apart from it being frustrating to overhear this, it occurred to me that people have stopped listening to advice.

Cash ISAs lose money, as inflation is higher than the annual interest rate, FACT

As an independent adviser, each client is different and gets treated differently.

But if you want a simple, do it yourself solution, check out some of the on-line offerings, watching out for charges and historic volatility: Both Prudential and Royal London have funds that are designed to minimise risk.

If you want an opportunity to do good as well as making a better return then find an Ethical or Socially Responsible Solution:  www.uksif.co.uk

And if you would prefer to accept and pay for valuable good professional advice . . .

Paid for Advice?

Why pay for advice when you can find insurance cover and/or ISAs on line?  Whether you pay for the advice or pay for the product, you still pay.

The advice is there, as an option.

To discover the full range of available solutions, you will need independent advice.

Is price the only thing that matters?     When it comes to your family probably not.

Climate Change

As the world fails to act water will become a weapon and a cause of war.

Regimes that control water will hold a powerful weapon.  You can ensure that the world harvests, recovers and maintains its quality, by investing in commercial businesses whose products do just that.

The Women’s Institute is having a week of action on Climate Change in July.

Please support them.