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Amid crises food and drink industry committed to more sustainable food systems

Published: 11/11/2022

The President of FoodDrinkEurope, Marco Settembri, has written the following article on the sector’s climate journey in the context of COP27.

This week, around 35,000 people, from world leaders to civil society, are gathering in Egypt for the 27th climate summit – COP27. The summit provides an opportunity to accelerate global climate action through concerted emissions reductions, climate adaptation and expanding collaboration with civil society and business communities alike.

As one of Europe’s largest manufacturing industries, the food and drink industry must play its part. We’re slashing our carbon footprint, reducing energy consumption, and unlocking the Circular Economy. But like every other sector, we need to do more, and to do it urgently.

Shadow of crises

And never has action been more urgent than today.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, the energy price crisis, rising inflation, and the Covid-19 pandemic have combined to lay substantial obstacles on our path.

Over the past years, these crises have made glaringly apparent the importance of food security for a functioning modern society; the need for collaboration and that no actor can do it alone; the essential interconnectivity of our global supply chains (from energy, water, and agri-food); and the disasters of over-reliance on monopolies for the critical resources in our supply chains.

Though these crises may have slowed down our efforts, they have also brought them evermore into focus. This year has shown us that ensuring sustainable food production for a growing global population should never be taken for granted.

Fundamentally, whilst we face growing headwinds from these global crises, and look to policymakers to help us through them, we ultimately will not be blown off course.

Industry actions

The EU food and drink industry remains resolute in its commitment to tackle the climate emergency and build more sustainable food systems.

We will contribute to a 55% reduction of EU food chain emissions by 2030. Our ambition is to achieve a net-zero food chain by 2050. That’s not just Europe’s ambition but it’s our ambition too.

By integrating climate change in their business strategies, European food and drink manufacturers have achieved a 21% reduction in carbon emissions per unit of value added between 2008 and 2018, that is to say, the industry is getting more carbon efficient when producing food and drink products.

Here are some examples of how manufacturers in our sector are reducing their carbon emissions.

In addition, the EU food and drink industry cut its energy consumption by nearly 20% between 2000 and 2015. But there is more to be done.

Food production from farm-to-fork represents 30% of total carbon emissions within the EU, with the food manufacturing process accounting for 3% of total EU emissions. Decarbonisation of the food manufacturing industry can therefore make a significant contribution to the EU’s carbon neutrality target. That’s why, we launched our decarbonisation roadmap last year, which is jam-packed with 90+ concrete actions that food and drink businesses can undertake to reduce emissions.

I am also very happy that FoodDrinkEurope launched its Action Plan for Sustainable Food Systems earlier this year, to guide Europe’s food and drink sector on the sustainability journey. See my previous article on FoodDrinkEurope’s Action plan here.

Every sector across Europe needs to work towards achieving climate neutrality by 2050, and the food and drink industry is uniquely placed to not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also start to reverse them.

Soil, vegetation, and woodland have huge potential to sequester carbon, and so the industry is also supporting generations of farmers as they adopt more sustainable farming practices to combat climate change. See how we’re achieving this in FoodDrinkEurope’s recent webinar series on regenerative agriculture and for more specific actions on regenerative agriculture visit FoodDrinkEurope’s website. Regenerative agriculture is one of the means helping us to tackle the climate as well as the biodiversity crisis jointly.

Concrete strategies are vital to achieve net zero

As leaders across governments, civil society, and business meet this week in Egypt, COP 27 will need to make progress in aligning all G20 countries to agree on ambitious 2030 targets and developing concrete and long-term decarbonisation strategies in the context of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

The challenges ahead are great – tackling the climate and biodiversity emergency, building a circular economy and promoting regenerative agriculture, to name a few – but we stand ready to work with all stakeholders to deliver a better food future.