View from Westminster.

Andrew Jones MP’s monthly column published in the Harrogate Advertiser series.

“There are big issues in the world, the war in Ukraine, mass migration, the ongoing recovery from COVID.  I have discussed these in previous columns.  And these are big issues but, over the greater sweep of the human span there is one issue that is so significant, long term and increasingly urgent – the future of our planet.  We see political changes and societal changes happening with increasing pace, but this is one constant.

“I like the thought that we are custodians for generations to come and whether you believe in manmade global warming or not – and I think the scientific evidence is conclusive on that question – we can surely all agree that we want our children to grow up in a better environment than we did. 

“Some of the changes we need or at a national and international level and some good agreements were made at COP26 – the climate change conference in Glasgow last year.  Some of the changes are national such as legislation on how we power our homes and businesses or the introduction of the plastic bag charge.

“But we too have the opportunity at a very local level to make a significant difference.  And much of what we need to do is little more than what our parents and grandparents did – making things last longer, re-using things where we can, wasting as little as possible.

“I want to outline just one of the ways in which we can all play our part and make that difference.

“The government has set a target of reducing our food waste by half by 2030 as part of the United Nation’s sustainable development goals.

“As a nation we throw away around 9 million tonnes of food every year.  We shouldn’t beat ourselves up about that too much because that is down 15 per cent since 2007.  It is though a huge figure even when broken down per household.  Globally it is estimated that around one-third of all food is thrown away.

“This is all food that has production costs through the growing process – machinery, workers, seeds, fertilisers and so on.  It has transportation costs to reach our shelves often travelling across oceans in refrigerated containers.  It is packaged to maintain the freshness longer sometimes in reusable material but more often in plastic or film and then there are the costs we incur collecting it – fuel and time.

“Achieving this target to reduce food waste will benefit our environment in obvious ways such as reducing the carbon miles in food production and distribution.  It will benefit us too by reducing the amount we spend on food as part of our squeezed household budgets.

“And it benefits us in ways we may not even realise.  The Ukraine crisis has caused a jump in petrol and diesel prices increasing food production and transportation costs.  This increase in costs has already led to a warning of shortages in some foods.  I am not sure we area in that place, as the food industry does an excellent job, but COVID-19 saw supply chains struggling to keep shelves stocked. 

“Using what we have to the fullest – food in this example – is one part of the solution to reduce our reliance on long-supply chains and will help insulate ourselves from international events.  Some might call it being frugal but reducing food waste is part of an ‘old school’ solution to many of our modern-day problems.  And that is why it is critical not to forget about these long-term issues which need to be tackled despite the immediate crises which are so important and can dominate our thinking.”