By Juliane Caillouette-Noble, The Sustainable Restaurant Association
You likely will have seen the IPCC report that was published last week, or at least the associated media coverage. Even without the publication of the report, global climate news over the past few weeks has been impossible to ignore. Fires across Turkey, Greece and America, record high temperatures in Sicily and in Spain, flooding in Europe and in Asia and warnings that the Jet Stream may be already destabilised— even one of these events would be enough to take the climate crisis seriously, let alone the deluge of all of them. Hot on the heels of all of these newsworthy events was the publication of the IPCC report calling this a ‘code red for humanity’.
Who is the IPCC, and what is the report?
The IPCC is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They are a UN-established group, founded in 1988. The IPCC provides policymakers with regular scientific assessments on climate change, its implications and potential future risks, and mitigation recommendations. The report that they published last week is the Working Group I Report – the first of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which will be completed in 2022. Working Group I (WGI) analyses the physical climate system and updates us on where we are at now in relation to climate change. Working Group II will look at the natural and socio-economic impacts of climate change, and Working Group III will assess mitigation options. It’s important to emphasise that as such, WGI does not focus on mitigation plans – these are to come with WGIII. Much of what the media says are therefore their own interpretations of the findings rather than the statements of the body itself.
The most popular headline from discussions around the report is that the UN is referring to it as a ‘code red for humanity’. It’s pretty clear why: the report has confirmed that climate change is affecting every region across the globe, and that the climate crisis is ‘unequivocally’ being caused by human activity. The report also confirmed that the Paris Agreement (global average temperature) goals of 1.5°C and 2°C are slipping ‘beyond reach’. The IPCC warned that direct impacts of climate change such as extreme weather will get worse as the climate continues to heat, and that we need ‘strong, rapid and sustained reductions’ in methane and CO2 in order to ‘get to grips with the climate crisis’.
But, it’s not all bad news; the silver lining of the report is that we currently have a much clearer picture of the past, present and future climate, which is essential for understanding where we are headed, and what we can do about it. The report is not sharing unexpected and new information, rather, it is confirming that what scientists have expected for decades regarding the climate crisis is happening. Further, the report emphasised that human actions still have the potential to determine the future course of climate, and we can still make positive changes – if we act now.
Although the WGIII report will give us mitigation advice in the months to come, we must continue working on mitigation intervention methods based on what we already know. And what we know, is that we need global action – this means everyone from Governments to businesses to civil society to individuals needs to participate. We also know that food is essential, both in perpetuating and exacerbating the climate crisis AND in providing solutions. How we globally produce and consume food needs to change. As we stated back at the start of 2019, it is the tastiest challenge on earth.
What we at the SRA are doing
It is hard to be hopeful in times like these. And yet, the SRA is a fundamentally hopeful organisation. As our team commiserated last week on the intensity of the climate related news, someone posted in our team chat ‘How do we stay hopeful in times like these?’. The best response that I have ever heard to that question was from Emma: While it is undeniable that the climate crisis is here. NOW. So, too, are we.
While it is clear that humanity is the cause of climate change, it is also clear that humanity must be the solution. Human ingenuity is vast, and our actions are impactful. If we can accelerate our action and focus our attention to solving this problem, we will do it.
Hospitality has a unique role to play. Not just because food is a highly impactful sector, and is responsible for a large portion of global emissions, but because of the way that food intersects with every aspect of our lives. Food is biology, food is culture. Eating connects us with the natural world, and dining is what makes us human.
At the SRA our goal is to accelerate change towards an environmentally restorative and socially progressive hospitality sector. And we are working harder than ever to ensure that this is not just where we are based, here in the UK, but worldwide. In 2019 we launched a partnership programme, Food Made Good Global, creating networks in Hong Kong and in Tokyo. Our partners are doing amazing work on the ground to build networks of likeminded restaurants in their regions, and we are excited that our new community platform (community.foodmadegood.org) will now connect all our networks in one space. We are also opening that platform to new partners and also to restaurants and individuals working in hospitality around the world.
We will continue to work in partnership. Collaborations with brands like our work with Arla Pro and Flor de Caña rum have allowed us to further expand the War on Waste; with Pernod Riccard we have developed sustainability training and assessments for bars and Coca-Cola has joined forces as well to launch the Net Zero Pub and Bar protocol. We will continue to seek out partnerships that add value to the sector, and that further strengthen our ability to drive change.
We are also working with our close friends and colleagues at Net Zero Now, launching the Restaurant, Pub and Bar protocols for going net zero. This will demystify the process of going Net Zero, especially for small to medium size businesses.
The Food Made Good Rating will continue to be the gold standard for assessing sustainability across the food service sector. This certification tool shows business commitment to action, allowing customers to vote with their fork by dining in businesses that are committed to treading lightly.
What you can do
Whether you are reading this as an individual interested in sustainability, or as an employee in a business that is committing to make a difference– there is a lot that everyone can do to work towards the global change needed to combat the climate crisis.
Firstly, make changes your personal life – actions from individuals are important, and every bit counts. This could be changing the food you eat (e.g., buying food that is produced locally, or reducing the amount of meat eaten), how you travel (e.g., walking or cycling instead of driving), or the companies you support (e.g., choosing to spend money towards businesses that have sustainable practices). Think about what changes you can make, starting what interests or motivates you, and what is realistically possible. Some people will be able to reduce their meat intake, whilst some will be able to stop flying regularly. Many people will be unable to do all these things 100%, let alone all these things at once, and that’s ok.
Similarly, if you’re a business, reflect on your sustainability practices and see where you can make changes. This might be the energy providers you use, your suppliers, your menu, and even your goals. If you’re a hospitality business, a great way to do this is through completing our Rating, where we can help evaluate your practices, celebrate what steps you’re taking to be more sustainable, and provide advice on how to improve.
As either an individual or a business, put pressure on other businesses and Governmental bodies to make systemic changes. Individual behaviour can still make a big difference in protecting the planet, but in order to see large-scale changes, we need action from the people who hold the most authority. You can write to your local MP and tell them what changes need to be made to your community, put pressure on corporations to reduce their carbon footprints, sign petitions, and more. Make sure also to remember the value of communication – discussing topics like climate change within your community can go a long way.
Lastly, remember that when hearing about things like the IPCC report or other environmental findings, it is ok to feel upset, anxious, hopeful, helpless or angry – your feelings are valid. But, with whatever you are feeling, use these feelings to fuel action, rather than inactivity. Let this empower you to make the changes we need for our planet, and to encourage others to do the same.