New report suggests inaction on climate change a major threat to food prices

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 1st February 2010

The impact of extreme weather events on food prices overshadow the ‘modest increases’ expected under the proposed CPRS or even more ambitious emissions trading schemes, The Climate Institute briefing paper ‘Food Prices and Emissions Trading’ – released today – suggests.

Droughts and other extreme weather events, which are on the rise, have recently increased grocery shopfront prices for lamb by almost 60 per cent and tripled the price of bananas, the think tank noted. UK and Australian analysis of emissions trading schemes, meanwhile, found average grocery prices would face significantly smaller rises.

“Hysterical claims by some politicians and business lobbyists of food prices sky-rocketing because of action on climate change that limits and prices carbon pollution are just not supported by publically available, credible evidence,” Climate Institute CEO John Connor asserted. “Making big polluters pay through an emissions trading scheme, as part of a global effort, is the best way to manage the risks of climate change and the threat it poses to food prices and farming productivity.

“What all the credible research shows is that farmers, consumers and producers will be hit hardest in the hip pocket by the impacts of climate change – not by policies that limit and price the carbon pollution through an emissions trading scheme.”

Mr Connor added that a major commitment to reducing carbon emissions must be viewed as a solution rather than a problem by the food sector.

“The last quarter of 2009 saw fruit prices rise 16% because of poor growing conditions and those conditions will get tougher and ultimately near impossible in our Murray Darling foodbowl if global warming gets over 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, and especially if it approaches 4 degrees,” he said.

The Garnaut Report warned that unmitigated climate change would all but wipe out farming in the Murray Darling Basin by the end of the century and called for global efforts including Australia reducing 2000 carbon pollution levels by 90% by mid-century.

“As the International Energy Agency recently highlighted, a global effort to reduce carbon pollution will keep a lid on petrol price rises by pushing back the date when global oil supplies peak – another reason why we need to make our polluters pay and for us to join global efforts,” Connor remarked.

“The conclusion is pretty stark for farmers, food producers and consumers alike – an emissions trading scheme is affordable, climate change is not.”

Last week, Australia’s leading representative of food and beverage manufacturers urged the government to match the plans of other developed economies rather than go it alone on their own scheme – with industry concerned about the global competitiveness of the sector if higher costs are imposed on them.