A report estimates that climate collapse and soaring fossil fuel prices have pushed up the average household food bill by more than £400 this year.
The warning comes after the latest figures show annual food inflation has risen to nearly 15%, which campaigners say has left millions of British families and children food insecure – forced to skip meals or go hungry.
In a report commissioned by think tank Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), researchers from Bournemouth, Exeter and Sheffield Universities examined the impact of rising oil and gas prices and rising global temperatures on food supplies.
They found that the combined effects of climate and oil and gas prices have pushed up the average UK household’s food bill by £11.4bn. The average household costs £407 this year, or almost £34 a month.
The researchers estimated that of the £407, around £170 was due to climate change and £236 was due to high oil and gas prices, revealing the risks of the food system’s dependence on fossil fuels.
Energy price shocks and climate change are currently blamed for the largest share of food inflation, with 88% of the 12.7% increase in prices by July 2022 attributed to these two factors, the report said.
Climate change has multiplied the likelihood of this summer’s drought and record-breaking heatwaves in the UK and Europe, affecting yields and quality of many crops.
Climate change is also raising the risk of extreme weather events around the world, such as the recent devastating floods that killed hundreds and destroyed homes, infrastructure and agriculture in Pakistan, the UK’s second-biggest importer of rice.
Meanwhile, the price of oil, gas and synthetic fertilizers made from or using fossil fuels rose in the first half of 2022 due to the invasion of Ukraine by major fossil fuel producer Russia.
Agricultural production and the food chain are fossil fuel-intensive, from fertilizers used to grow crops and fuel agricultural vehicles, to processing, transporting and selling goods, and storing and cooking food at home.
The report warns that even after the current spike in fossil fuel prices passes, rising temperatures and more extreme weather will continue to increase – without action to stop climate change – affecting food supplies.
Experts say the UK is vulnerable to changes in the global food supply chain as 40% of its food and agricultural inputs need to be imported.
The report’s authors reviewed recent scientific and economic research on the links between fossil fuels and climate change and UK food prices to reach their conclusions.
Wyn Morgan, Emeritus Professor at the University of Sheffield and one of the report’s authors, said: “The analysis supports how the entire UK food system is responding to global climate change and events in world markets, and points to action to promote UK food and The agricultural sector is more resilient.”
Dr Jim Scown, from the Food, Agriculture and Rural Council, said: “This report lays out how geopolitical and climate shocks, such as rising energy costs due to the war in Ukraine and extreme heat and now drought in the UK, are uniting for people at the checkout. increase food prices.
“This is a powerful reminder of the fragility of the fossil fuel-dependent global food system.”
He called for a transition to an “agro-ecological food system” that supports farmers in farming in nature-friendly ways, stores carbon, helps landscapes cope with climate change, and produces healthy food that enhances food security.
Matt Williams, ECIU’s climate and land program leader, added: “If we want our agriculture to become more resilient and ultimately protect our food security.”
Emily Beament is the PA Environmental Correspondent.