What the IPCC Climate Change & Land report means for food business and policy

We unpack what the IPCC report on Climate Change and Land means for food businesses and policy makers.

Food businesses

Depending on where you sit in the food system (production, manufacturing, consumer facing or in logistics/ distribution) you will be affected by climate change and affecting climate change to some extent.

Producers (our farmers and growers): much of the report is global in focus and therefore to hone in on what is expected to happen in New Zealand, you need to get up to speed with Ministry for Environment and other publications on New Zealand based climate change mitigation (reducing emissions) and adaptation (changing to cope with climate change impacts).

What you do need to know is that where you are exporting or selling to may have climate change effects that will disrupt your supply chain and potential customers.  In New Zealand, like everywhere, land-use change will be important in some areas to withstand drought, severe storms, and floods.

The types of crops you are growing will be affected by climate change and may need to change. What and how you farm will be impacting the environment and soon land owners will be needing to either change some of those practices to reduce the impact, particularly in the intensive dairy farm sector. What is important to understand here is that the scale of the challenge of climate change requires more than ‘best practice-business as usual’ and some brave decisions will now need to be made by farmers and land owners.

Manufacturers (our food makers and businesses): if you are importing ingredients, which most food businesses do, you need to understand your supply chain and where the impacts of climate change will affect that. You may need to re-work supply chains and ingredients to allow for change and to be more resilient. Many of you will know what a big undertaking that is, so the sooner you can start to understand that value chain, the better.

The other side to this is that where you export to will also be considering you in the same way. Are you a resilient supplier or selling a climate change-friendly product? There is a lot of momentum behind plant based foods and climate-friendly diets, but regardless of what you make, you must truly understand your product, have a transparent and traceable story.  Distribution is important in your sector, and understanding that there may be disruptions to supply or increased costs at ports abroad where there are problems caused by climate change impacts, such as drought or deluge.

Having a resilient food business in the face of climate change impacts, particularly where exporting, will be crucial for your long term business success.


Central and local government

The third global peer reviewed report to come out this year is not shy on what you need to do. We’re telling you: New Zealand needs a national food strategy that addresses the biggest issues of our time, climate change, obesity, malnutrition and brings on board our food businesses and health organisations. Ad hoc policy, such as the recent attempts to change diets in hospitals without thorough consultation with stakeholders, will back fire and not work. We need systemic change, policy that integrates these issues and gives them weight. Understanding that food is: agriculture, it is farming, it is growing, it is horticulture, it is manufacturing, it is employment and it is health would be a great start. Local governments are currently further ahead than central government on this, but we are certain that we can get there. Having global reports to back us up is a great start.

Need help with the issues raised in this article? We can help. It’s what we do. E-mail us: info@spira.nz