OVER a third of the Scottish Government's £3.2m funding to curb greenhouse gases has been spent on a "misguided" measure that some experts say will not have a major impact on climate change.

Some £1.12m of the Community Climate Asset Fund (CCAF) set up to support 'the green recovery' has been designated to projects aimed at growing local food.

But while schools across Scotland have been drawn into the 'grow local' drive, some experts say that the eating local recommendation has a negligible effect.

Eating locally only has a significant impact if transport was responsible for a large share of food’s final carbon footprint.

But some experts say that for most foods, this is not the case.

Dr Hannah Ritchie from Edinburgh, who is a senior researcher and head of research with Our World In Data believes that greenhouse gas emissions from transportation make up a very small amount of the emissions from food and what you eat is far more important than where your food travelled from.

The University of Edinburgh graduate, a specialist in global food systems, who is also a senior researcher at the University of Oxford has questioned the 'eating local' mantra in her own analysis.

An Our World in Data analysis shows that the distance our food travels to get to us actually accounts for 6% of most food products’ carbon footprint. Processes on farms and changes in land use typically account for much more of the emissions from our food. Dairy, meat and eggs alone accounted for 83%.

A meta-analysis of global food systems to date which examined more than 38,000 commercial farms in 119 countries found there were huge differences in greenhouse gas emissions of different foods.

Producing a kilogram of beef emitted 60 kilograms of greenhouse gases, while peas emits just one kilogram per kg.

A study, published in Science, led by Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek from three years agofound that contrary to popular belief sourcing food locally may not help greenhouse gas emissions in a very significant way, especially in the case of foods with a large carbon footprint.

Eating local beef or lamb is said to have many times the carbon footprint of most other foods.

But transport typically accounts for less than 1% of beef’s emissions.


Dr Ritchie said in a data analysis: "There is rightly a growing awareness that our diet and food choices have a significant impact on our carbon ‘footprint’. What can you do to really reduce the carbon footprint of your breakfast, lunches, and dinner?

"‘Eating local’ is a recommendation you hear often – even from prominent sources. While it might make sense intuitively – after all, transport does lead to emissions – it is one of the most misguided pieces of advice.

"Eating locally would only have a significant impact if transport was responsible for a large share of food’s final carbon footprint. For most foods, this is not the case.

"GHG emissions from transportation make up a very small amount of the emissions from food..."

The Scottish Government announced the £3.2m climate action fund in January and said that a total of 279 projects would get support.

Some 172 of the projects received funding for growing food accounting for £1.12m of the CCAF.

Of the projects funded for food growing 112 schools and nurseries were successful in applying for grants of under £10k.

Funding was used to cover the purchase of polytunnels, sheds and greenhouses, soil and peat-free compost, composting bins, trees and wheelbarrows.

Keep Scotland Beautiful said its link with schools, through the international Eco-Schools programme, has also allowed them to provide support, resources and webinars linking food growing and the learning associated with this to climate change and the wider curriculum for education and learning for sustainability agenda.

According to a Dr Ritchie's 2020 study eating local beef or lamb has many times the carbon footprint of most other foods. Whether they are grown locally or shipped from the other side of the world matters very little for total emissions.

"Transport typically accounts for less than 1% of beef’s GHG emissions: choosing to eat local has very minimal effects on its total footprint," she said. "You might think this figure is strongly dependent on where in the world you live, and how far your beef will have to travel, but... it doesn’t make a lot of difference.


"Whether you buy it from the farmer next door or from far away, it is not the location that makes the carbon footprint of your dinner large, but the fact that it is beef."

While the impact of transport is small for most products, there was one exception - those which travel by air.

But very little food is air-freighted, accounting for only 0.16% of food miles.

A spokesman for Keep Scotland Beautiful which is overseeing the fund said: “The Community Climate Asset Fund (CCAF) supported community-based organisations providing an invaluable response to COVID-19 in Scotland. It also recognised the prominent role communities have to play in achieving a green recovery.

"The UK Climate Change Committee identified the need for significant behaviour change with regard to reducing food waste and increasing the percentage of locally produced seasonal food that people eat. Food growing projects with young people are in important element supporting that change.

“There was a surge in food growing and gardening during lockdown and this is reflected by the large number of applications to support local food growing to CCAF. The excellent take up of the grant from schools and nurseries will reignite and reconnect young people to their environment supporting them to understand the links between the food they eat, where it has come from, where it is grown, the impacts on our climate and the choices they can make.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Community Climate Asset Fund has been designed to build the long-term capacity of community-based organisations to respond to the climate emergency and encourage the societal changes we need to achieve this.

“Our journey to net-zero represents an opportunity, not just to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, but to improve our health and wellbeing, and create a better future for everyone – regardless of where they live, what they do, and who they are.”

“Communities have a critical role to play in this journey. Local food growing projects can act as a stimulus for wider climate action by providing the means through which people can come together, re-engage with nature, and identify actions that align with the needs of their local community.”