As a country we are divided over independence, we are divided over Brexit, but we cannot allow ourselves to become divided over tackling the climate emergency which is looming over our heads.

Our actions to tackle climate change will extend way beyond the expiry date of the next government which is why it is so important to put aside political point scoring and prioritise a joint approach to restoring and conserving our environment before it is too late. 

All of the parties on the ballot have stormed ahead with ambitious tree planting agendas without stopping to recognise the fantastic natural resource that is grass, something we have in abundance here in Scotland

Grass is a valuable carbon sink, but we still don’t have the tools to measure its sequestration potential. We cannot manage what we cannot measure, which is why it is often left out of the carbon equation. 

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This could all be about to change. Last week saw the launch of a global farm metric – a common benchmark to measure the sustainability of food and farming.  I attended a TEDx event hosted by the Sustainable Food Trust which is leading a new coalition to establish a standardised approach for assessing the sustainability credentials of different farms. A common toolkit which will be rolled out internationally and will allow us to present a harmonised approach to measuring and managing agriculture’s global emissions.

Finally, the role our grasslands play in storing carbon will be properly recorded and recognised for their valuable contribution towards our journey to net zero emissions. It is now up to the next Scottish Government to embrace this global farm metric and start recognising farming as part of the solution.

Farming practices will have to change to be part of this journey and I believe from speaking to farmers and reading the manifesto’s of different farming organisations that they are ready and up to the challenge, but this shift in production will require long term commitments over future funding.

If farmers are going to be tasked with producing more environmentally friendly food which comes with a higher price tag, this has to be reflected in the value of food or else farmers will continue to need subsidies in order to keep food affordable for the public. 

Farmers today are producing food which is sold at the same price as it was 20 years ago. The same certainly can’t be said for the price of clothing, petrol or house prices.

If we as consumers really value a future where low carbon produce becomes a staple in our shopping baskets, then we might have to start footing some of the bill.
We all go into our local supermarket with the moral intentions of choosing food which supports good animal welfare and boasts environmental protections, but 90% of us go in and buy based on price. 

Food is cheap and we are so disconnected from the way it is produced that we often don’t value it and think nothing of throwing it away. Why else do we allow 40% of UK food to end up in the bin?

But are we lazy consumers with a disregard for seasonality and the origins of our food, or is it simply that we are overwhelmed by too much choice on the shelves that we can’t begin to understand the impact of our purchases?

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We all might recognise a free-range egg label or red tractor assurance mark, but do we really feel equipped to make informed choices on the sustainability of our purchases? I back the proposals by the Scottish Greens and the SNP to introduce carbon labelling, but will it not all ultimately come back to a case of price?

During the TEDx event, the Chief Executive of Morrison’s explained: “Choice often means the balance between price and quality, price and provenance, price and healthier ingredients, but it always comes down to price.”

Morrison’s have a clever solution to remove the pressure from consumers and place the onus on themselves to provide sustainable produce on their shelves. In March they announced that they would only be supplied by net zero carbon farms by 2030 and will be working with their 3000 farmers and growers to produce affordable net zero carbon meat, fruit, vegetables, and eggs. This takes away the uncertainty and ambiguity for its customers. 

As a nation emerging from a pandemic with rising levels of poverty and social inequality, we cannot expect the public to be putting sustainability at the top of their list, but longer term the responsibility will have to be shared by consumers.

We as the public need to play our part in tackling the climate emergency and committing to responsible food choices is a good place to start. We need to start valuing the produce on our shelves and nipping in the bud the throwaway culture which has resulted from our disconnect.

There is an urgency to rebuild our relationship with food and our understanding of how it Is produced. All roads lead back to education, and by introducing sustainable food production as part of the national curriculum will equip the next generation with the knowledge to make responsible food choices.

Constitutional issues cannot be allowed to dominate and divide discussion over the next five years. A collaborative approach is needed to properly address and tackle the looming climate emergency and how our food is produced, purchased, and consumed has to be front and centre of policy decisions.