8 February 2023

Food security is one of the most under-reported aspects of the climate crisis. The climate emergency is making headlines every day, from the rise in extreme weather to the government’s plans on achieving net-zero by 2050. While the country’s focus has understandably been on energy security because of the war in Ukraine, food security is a crisis that we can’t afford to overlook.

Energy and food security go hand-in-hand. Our over-reliance on foreign energy exports and rising energy costs have led to a rallying cry to accelerate the transition to renewable energy. Understanding food security is vital to achieving this goal.

Food is the number two driver of global emissions while being the system most directly impacted by the climate crisis. The solution to energy and food security is regenerative agriculture. The agriculture industry is fighting a battle on both fronts with 70% of fertiliser production in Europe shutting down to energy costs.

At Green Switch Capital, we’re working to promote food and energy security by repurposing unused agricultural land for renewable energy projects. Our land-leasing programmes offer a passive income stream for farmers while paving the way to tackling the dual energy and food security crisis.

The Impact of Climate Change on Food Security 

The agricultural industry and food production primarily rely on natural gas and oil, making it one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. While food production is a major factor in climate change, it’s also facing the consequences as extreme weather is leading to biodiversity loss and water scarcity.

A recent IPCC Climate Change 2022 report predicts that 10% of land will be climatically unsuitable for farming by 2050, leading to more deforestation to maintain crop yields. Food security can only be achieved by tackling climate change and providing the agricultural industry with green energy solutions.

How Energy and Food Security Are Linked

Global food prices hit a new record high in 2022. The war in Ukraine and rising global temperatures led to grain and vegetable oils hitting their highest recorded price. While December 2022 saw a drop in cost due to lower import demands, dairy and sugar continued to rise in price.

This situation has led to the number of people facing acute food insecurity more than doubling since 2019. The World Food Programme points to global conflicts, the climate crisis, and COVID-19 as contributing factors.

The Global Hunger Index points out the knock-on effect of the war in Ukraine on the accessibility and cost of fuel, food, and fertiliser. The increased scarcity and cost of these are exacerbating the food security crisis, particularly as many countries rely on Russia and Ukraine for their wheat imports.

Today’s energy and food security crises are interlinked as fertiliser production has been halted and drastically reduced due to the rising cost of natural gas that is required for creating ammonia.

1.72 billion people are at risk from food insecurity with the climate change debate overlooking the link between the energy crisis and food accessibility. The energy crisis is leading to an increase in the cost of natural gas, drastically impacting the price of fertiliser and affecting the already struggling agricultural industry.

Europe’s Food Security Crisis

We’re currently experiencing the first ‘global energy crisis’ with Europe’s energy crisis having a ripple effect across the globe, including hiking up food prices in emerging markets and the developing world. The cost of natural gas has led to an estimated 70% of Europe’s fertiliser production shutting down.

Can we produce food without using fertiliser? While this might sound like the solution to the problem, producing food without fertiliser reduces its yield by 50%. The limited availability of fertilisers means that Europe will be pivoting from being a nitrogen exporter to an importer as ten fertiliser plants have closed across Europe.

Providing Food Security Through Green Energy

Green energy can lead the way to energy independence while achieving food security. Treating these two issues as interwoven will lead to more cooperation between the energy and agricultural industries. Hydrogen is being explored as a potential source for carbon-free ammonia-based fertiliser as 10% of global hydrogen production is estimated to be carbon-free by 2030. 

Lowering the cost of renewable energy is vital to ensuring that hydrogen can become carbon-free to provide the agricultural industry with a carbon-free alternative to traditional fertiliser. Green ammonia, using carbon-free hydrogen, will allow food production to lower its carbon footprint, in turn making net-zero more achievable. 

Oil and natural gas are also relied on for processing and distribution, accounting for over 40% of the energy used within the food value chain. Agriculture and the food production industry can reduce their carbon footprint and decarbonise by using electric vehicles, green hydrogen-based synthetic fuels, and utilising heat pumps and electric boilers instead of natural gas boilers.

The Role of Solar Farms in Food and Energy Security

Solar energy offers a path to tackling the dual crisis of food and energy. Green Switch Capital is working with landowners across the UK to develop solar farms and widen access to one of the most affordable green energy supplies. Solar farms can produce energy at a third of the cost of nuclear or gas while allowing for rapid deployment.

The benefit of solar farms is that they are completely reversible and disturb less than 2% of the underlying land. Solar farming allows the land to evolve with time and boost biodiversity. Incorporating a solar farm can give the land a break from intensive cultivation and even improve its soil health.

Installing solar panels means that the land can become multifunctional with clean energy production occurring simultaneously alongside livestock grazing. Agrivoltaics provides further potential for food production to occur alongside solar panels. 

Dealing with energy and food security as a dual crisis allows for innovative planning that uses clean energy as a vehicle to increase food production while lowering the industry’s carbon footprint.

Green Switch Capital is unlocking the potential of green energy to improve food and energy security. We’re working with hundreds of landowners across Britain to create a sustainable, self-reliant energy market and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Contact our team today to find out more about our land leasing programme.