1st Edition

Net Zero, Food and Farming Climate Change and the UK Agri-Food System

By Neil Ward Copyright 2023
    268 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    268 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book examines the implications of the net zero transition for food and farming in the UK and how these can be managed to avoid catastrophic climate change in the crucial decades ahead.

    For the UK to meet its international obligations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, nothing short of a revolution is required in our use of land, our farming practices and our diet. Taking a historical approach, the book examines the evolution of agriculture and the food system in the UK over the last century and discusses the implications of tackling climate change for food, farming and land use, setting the UK situation in an international context. The chapters analyse the key challenges for this transition, including dietary change and food waste, afforestation and energy crops, and low-emission farming practices. This historical perspective helps develop an understanding of how our food, farming and land use system has evolved to be the way that it is, and draws lessons for how the agri-food system could evolve further to support the transition to net zero and avoid catastrophic climate change.

    Written in a clear and accessible style, this book will be essential reading to students and scholars of food, agriculture and the environment, as well as policymakers and professionals involved climate change policy and the agriculture and food industry.

    Chapter 1. Food, Farming and Climate Change

    Chapter 2. Science, Technology and Politics: The Conceptual Approach

    Chapter 3. Food and Farming in Twentieth Century Britain: Productivism and its Aftermath

    Chapter 4. Cleaning and Greening Food and Farming

    Chapter 5. The Evolution of Climate Science and Climate Politics

    Chapter 6. Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Food, Farming and Land Use

    Chapter 7. Diet, Food and Waste

    Chapter 8. Land Use Change and Greenhouse Gas Removal

    Chapter 9. Farming Practice and Climate Change Mitigation

    Chapter 10. The Dynamics of Transitioning to Net Zero

    Chapter 11. Conclusions: Net Zero, Food and Farming




    Neil Ward is Professor of Rural and Regional Development at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, UK. He was UEA’s Deputy Vice Chancellor (2014–2021) and was formerly the Director of the Centre for Rural Economy at Newcastle University (2004-2008). He has worked on 50 funded research projects examining agriculture, environment, food and rural development, served as a Cabinet Office advisor on agriculture and rural affairs and has appeared before numerous parliamentary select committees.

    "A fascinating and insightful book. It is sympathetic and informative on how the food system got where it is today, and is pragmatic, accessible and detailed on the future outlook. Essential reading for anyone interested in how we can reach net zero through the current food system." 

    Sarah Bridle, Author of Food and Climate Change: Without the Hot Air

    Neil Ward has written a timely and compelling book about the challenges of net zero for the agri-food system. The book integrates social science research with the science of climate change, drawing on perspectives from the political economy of food and farming, science and technology studies, and research on sustainability transitions. This synthesising approach is essential if we are to rise to the challenge of climate change.

    Professor Kevin Morgan, author of Worlds of Food: Place, Power and Provenance in the Food Chain

    "In this rich account of the food system and the challenge of delivering net zero, Neil Ward draws together social science and climate science while also providing sharp historical analysis. Clear and compelling, Ward makes a powerful case for applying historical lessons to implement urgent change in the contemporary agri-food sector. Indeed, while the scientific evidence amassed by Ward shows revolution must happen, the history he details proves, if the right forces align, it can. This is an essential read for anyone interested in food, the environment, agriculture and agricultural history."

    Polly Russell, Food historian, The British Library

    "In this book, Neil Ward discusses the potential and challenges of achieving a net zero agri-food system in the UK. He examines the problem through the lens of science, technology and politics, skilfully and effortlessly weaving together the evidence from the scientific literature with his deep knowledge of UK policy and politics. In addition to opportunities for emission reduction and for creating carbon sinks, he also discusses the role of demand-side measures, such as dietary change and reduction of food waste, in a net zero future. This comprehensive assessment of what is possible in the UK is a must read for anyone interested in how we produce our food and what we need to do to effectively tackle climate change."

    Pete Smith FRS, Director of the Scottish Climate Change Centre of Expertise