Sustainable Food Against Climate Change

Simone D'Antonio

By Simone D'Antonio, on September 30th, 2014

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How can sustainable food contribute to fighting climate change? The experience of cities involved in the URBACT network Sustainable Food in Urban Communities gives insights into how cities can play a decisive role in fostering a change in the daily behaviors of citizens, with positive effects on CO2 emissions at global, national and local level. Ten European cities are involving residents in defining local action plans contributing to promote the use of sustainable and local products as a basis for effective local policies on this matter.

The original elements of different food cultures are matched within local plans elaborated on the basis of the best experiences transferred  into the project by partners who have already undertook local actions in this sector. Among these, the experience of the Bristol Food City Council is promoting collaboration between local stakeholders in order to find common solutions to the problem of food waste and to increase the use of local and organic food in schools and local communities.

Enhancing the connection between local farmers and residents through the promotion of the GASAP Network  (Groupe d’achat solidaire de l’agriculture paysanne) is one of the focus of the action of Brussels Region, lead partner of the project, who is experiencing new tools and strategies to communicate food related topics to its residents. On the other hand, Messina is focusing on the effects an enhanced attention towards sustainable food can have on creating new jobs in this sector for local youth, actively involving agriculture students and catering institutes in the activities of the Local Support Group.

The activities carried out by the ten partners of the project are anticipating the priorities of the global debate on climate, based on the increasing attention on topics such as urban development, use of land and energy production.

The objectives faced by many of these local groups are in line with the priorities stated in the Programme  of the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which underlines the importance of social, economic and health aspects linked to the EU policy on sustainable food.  This is an important signal in view of the next global meetings on climate change, such as the Climate Summit, to be held in New York on 23 September  and the Conference of parties of Lima in December meeting.

Cities are acting even faster than national governments in making food chain more sustainable and effective. Concrete interventions of local authorities in this sector can contribute in a decisive way to tackling other problems related to pollution and CO2 emissions: just as an example, the food chain is responsible for 40% of London’s global emissions. A mix of actions raising residents’ awareness on the different aspects of the problem can help making sustainable food an element of growth for cities around Europe. Slow Food and other grassroots organizations helped putting food quality at the centre of the debate, but the action of local governments can do even more to reconnect residents with food and to enhance the importance of the topic at national and global level.

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