Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum

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Net-zero, climate change and the food, drink and agriculture sector

Morning, Wednesday, 23rd June 2021

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference focuses on next steps for the food, drink and agriculture sector as it adapts to the impact of climate change - and its role in the drive towards net-zero emissions in policy and business practice.

The discussion takes place in the context of a new agriculture policy landscape and the Government’s wider decarbonisation agenda, alongside changes in public attitudes towards sustainability, as well as the backdrop of challenges facing the sector in adjusting to Brexit and recovering from disruption during the pandemic.

Areas for discussion include priorities for:

  • Government and policy - options for intervention, investment, and support for the food and drink sector as it transitions to net-zero
  • agriculture and farming - areas of focus for reducing emissions, including efficiency and productivity, land management, and implementing green manufacturing practices and renewable energy
  • the food and drink sector - strategic priorities and the practicalities of decarbonisation

The agenda

  • Building resilience and delivering environmental protection in the journey to net-zero
  • Key strategic priorities for achieving net-zero farming - productivity, efficiency and land management
  • Delivering the changes to land use required to drive emissions reduction
  • Reducing emissions in the farming sector - adapting to the impact of climate change and the new agriculture policy landscape, harnessing innovation, and minimising disruption to food production
  • Priorities for supporting the food and drink sector as it moves towards net-zero emissions
  • ‘Transforming the UK food system to meet global agreements - a scenarios exercise’
  • Decarbonisation in the food and drink sector - implementing greener processes, supporting innovation in technology, and priorities for investment
  • Next steps for implementing pathways to achieve a net-zero food and agriculture sector by 2050

Key areas for discussion:

The role of agriculture, food and drink in transition to net-zero:

  • the wider policy sustainability agenda - the sector’s potential contribution and challenges as part of the broader policy agenda
  • the upcoming National Net-Zero Strategy - key priorities, investment, and support that will be required for the sector as part of the Strategy

Progress and next steps:

  • building resilience - and supporting natural recovery and environmental protection in the roadmap to net-zero
  • ensuring a just transition - and what is needed from policy to underpin sector adaptation to the challenges of climate change

Priority areas for net-zero in UK agriculture and examining key enablers for being able to meet targets:

  • policy framework:
    • next steps for the development of a new direct payment system based on public money for public goods and environmental land management
    • strategies for incentives that can support reductions in emissions as well as improved adaptation
  • productivity:
    • the role of innovation in enabling smarter and more precise farming
    • discussing areas such as improving the efficiency of crops and fertilisers, supporting animal health, and adapting animal feed to reduce methane emissions
    • how net-zero can be achieved in the sector whilst minimising the impact on food production and supply
  • energy usage - ways of driving the use of renewable sources, bioenergy, and anaerobic digestion, as well as strategies for collaboration and overcoming barriers to use
  • land use and management:
    • advancing the role of soils in carbon storage, as well as discussion on hedgerows, woodland, peatland, and wetland
    • the development so far of environmental land management schemes, and opportunities for sharing and scaling up innovative good practice
    • next steps for driving forward low-carbon farming practices, agro-forestry, peatland restoration, and the growth of bioenergy crops

Key issues for decarbonising the food and drink sector:

  • the roles of government and the industry:
    • priorities for government support and intervention - following concerns that the sector will fall short of the net-zero target without support
    • the Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy - assessing its measures, and whether it goes far enough in providing a pathway and appropriate support for the sector
    • developing a realistic approach - striking a balance between aiming to achieve the change required at scale, and setting achievable steps and targets
    • collaboration and leadership - approaches to building strategic alignment across industry, innovators and government
    • funding and investment priorities
  • commercial and customer priorities:
    • developing business models to meet net-zero challenges
    • the role of increased consumer scrutiny and focus on sustainability in driving the development of environmentally-conscious processes and practices
  • towards net-zero manufacturing:
    • preparation - the key actions and support which are required now to manage the sector’s transition towards net-zero
    • strategy - the forward steps for implementing greener manufacturing practices, looking at challenges, incentivising compliance and best practice, and learning from other sectors
  • waste reduction - and the latest thinking on building a circular economy and utilising anaerobic digestion

Supply chains and logistics:

  • emission reduction within supply chains
  • developing sustainability and efficiency
  • lessons to be learned and applied from approaches taken in other sectors

Retail and hospitality:

  • assessing long-term planning as supermarkets publish strategies for becoming net-zero
  • the catering and out of home sector and priorities for support
  • the role of SMEs across the sector and the support they may require to contribute to net-zero targets

Next steps - immediate actions required to take forward the pathways identified for achieving net-zero in the sector, how to take these from promises to action, and the next steps for driving forward progress

A scan of relevant developments:

  • COP26 - preparation underway for the UK hosting the landmark international conference later this year:
    • with the Government’s commitment to publish a Net-Zero Strategy ahead of the summit
    • Sainsbury’s to sponsor COP26 climate summit in Glasgow - with the retailer becoming a principal partner for the summit
  • UK policy:
    • UK enshrines new target in law to slash emissions by 78% by 2035 - the Government’s announcement that the sixth carbon budget will set out targets to help the UK reach net-zero by 2050
    • the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution - with nature recovery a key element
    • Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy - from BEIS setting out the approach, actions, and support for the sector to reduce emissions, attract investment, and maintain productivity
    • the Agriculture Act - the new policy framework following the UK’s exit from the EU, including a direct payment system where farmers are rewarded for public goods
    • the Environment Bill - with targets, standards and regulation for the future following Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan for improving environment management and protecting nature
    • Details of the pilot of the Sustainable Farming Incentive published - by Defra, the first of three pilots aiming to encourage farmers to produce public goods, such as cleaner soil and air
    • National Food Strategy - with part one of the review having outlined the need for a more sustainable food system, and part two expected to outline the ways it can be achieved
  • Achieving Net-Zero: Farming’s 2040 Goal - from the NFU, with:
    • the ambition for the agriculture sector in England and Wales to be net-zero by 2040
    • an approach focused around improving productivity, land management, and the use of renewable energy and wider bioeconomy
  • Decarbonisation of heat across the food and drink manufacturing sector - the FDF’s strategy and outline of the collaboration and interventions required for the sector to achieve the 2050 net-zero target
  • Land use: Policies for a Net-Zero UK - the CCC’s report outlining the approach and actions required in order to achieve the land use transformation necessary to meet net-zero emission targets
  • Third of UK's biggest companies commit to net-zero - BEIS reporting the large numbers of UK companies that have made commitments to reduce their emissions, including Sainsbury’s reportedly committing £1bn to become net-zero by 2040
  • New major study shows importance of nature in hitting net-zero - from Natural England, on the impact that the UK’s different habitats can have on reducing carbon in the atmosphere, and its significance in reaching net-zero

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by parliamentarians from the House of Commons and officials from BEIS; the College of Agriculture, Food & Rural Enterprise; Crown Commercial Service; DAERA, NI; Defra; the Department for International Trade; the Department for Transport; the Drinking Water Inspectorate; the Food Standards Agency; the Health and Safety Executive; the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales; The Scottish Government; and the Welsh Government. Also due to attend are representatives from ADAS; Ad Bio Resources; Agricultural Industries Confederation; Agri Epi Centre; Agrimetrics; AHDB; Aldi GB; Apetito; Associated British Foods; BASF; Bayer CropScience; Boehringer Ingelheim; British Nutrition Foundation; Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner; Burges Salmon; Carmarthenshire Dairy Products; City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council; Coca-Cola Europacific Partners; College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise; Company Shop Group; Dawn Meats Group and Dunbia; EIT Food CLC North West; Environment Agency; Food Standards Scotland; Forum for the Future; Frontier Economics; H. Weston & Sons; H L Hutchinson; Innovate UK; Institute of Food Science and Technology; International Food Information Service; Kite Consulting; McCartneys; Moy Park; Muntons; Nestle; PKF Francis Clark; Richardson Milling UK; SAC Consulting; Savills; Slow Food Birmingham; Stroud Breweryu; The AF Group; The Scotch Whisky Research Institute; UK Flour Millers; University of Edinburgh; University of Leeds; University of York; Vestey Holdings; Which?; Yield Lab Europe Fund and Zero Waste Scotland.

Press passes have been reserved by representatives from AD & Bioresources News; Responsible Investor and RICS.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speakers

Lee Rawlinson

Director of Regulated Industry, Environment and Business, Environment Agency

Emma Piercy

Head of Climate Change & Energy Policy, Food and Drink Federation

Rt Hon the Lord Deben

Chairman, Committee on Climate Change

Keynote Speakers

Maia Elliott

Project Lead, Global Food Security programme, UK Research and Innovation

Jon Foot

Head of Environment & Resource Management, AHDB

Lee Rawlinson

Director of Regulated Industry, Environment and Business, Environment Agency

Emma Piercy

Head of Climate Change & Energy Policy, Food and Drink Federation

Rt Hon the Lord Deben

Chairman, Committee on Climate Change


Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle

former Leader, Green Party of England and Wales

Daniel Zeichner MP

Shadow Minister for Food, Farming and Rural Affairs


Charlotte Morton

Chief Executive, The Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association

Richard Nourse

Founder and Managing Partner, Greencoat Capital

Ben Sheppard

Partner, Walker Morris

Vicki Hird

Head of Sustainable Farming Campaign, Sustain

Susan Twining

Chief Land Use Policy Advisor, CLA

Calum Kelly

Agri-Tech Satellite Solutions Architect, Satellite Applications Catapult

Emma Keller

Head of Sustainability, Nestle

Tim Strowbridge

Technical Director, AECOM

John Davies

President, NFU Cymru

Emily Norton

Director, Rural Research, Savills

Sophie Throup

Head of Agriculture, Fisheries and Sustainable Sourcing, Morrisons

Dr Chungui Lu

Professor of Sustainable Agriculture, Nottingham Trent University