A new report from Kite Consulting has suggested that the world is sleepwalking into a global food security challenge by restricting dairy production as a climate change mitigation measure.

The report, entitled ‘Project Apollo – Looking at the dangers of restricting dairy output in a world short of food‘, focusses on how sustainability and food security targets can be met hand in hand, if policymakers look at the bigger picture.

The report details the strong demand across the globe for dairy, the restrictions that are being placed on its production as well as the consequences of this for various countries around the world.

Kite is urging governments in dairy producing countries to take a joined up approach when looking at climate change policies, supply restrictions and food security and says without this approach, the world will “sleepwalk into a food security and climate change disaster”.

The company’s estimations suggest that restricting dairy production will result in a demand shortfall of around 30 billion kg/year in dairy importing countries by 2030. This would be equivalent to roughly twice the entire UK dairy industry’s current annual output.

The report goes on to outline that certain initiatives that aim to combat climate change in the west, risk reducing food production at a time when global food security has been brought into sharp focus, as a result of the conflict in Ukraine.

According to Kite, vulnerable nations that are heavily reliant on food imports will be left at a significant disadvantage. This may result in a higher risk of social unrest in these countries which has a knock on effect of making addressing climate change even harder.

Food security versus climate action

Speaking about the report, managing partner at the consultancy John Allen said countries are faced with a paradox as they look to act on climate change while maintaining food security.

“Commendable and much needed initiatives to minimise climate change in western economies are putting additional pressure on global food security which will, in turn, reduce the legitimacy of governments in vulnerable countries and make addressing climate change harder.”

According to Allen, this is a situation that must be avoided. He outlined that dairy still has a key role to play in global nutrition.

“Our analysis highlights that dairy yields nearly four times as much nutrition as plant based alternatives per unit of CO2 emissions, even when measured using GWP100, and this increases to 8 times when using the increasingly accepted GWP method,” Allen continued.

Policymakers now need to look at dairy and all other foods on a nutrients/kg and carbon equivalent emissions basis, rather than by kg carbon emissions/kg of food product, said Allen.

He explained that implementing policy frameworks in dairy producing countries that allow farmers to produce quantities to satisfy demand whilst meeting sustainability targets is key.

“We need a policy that allows farmers to deliver decarbonisation whilst at least maintaining and, ideally, increasing, dairy production to meet global demand and avoid food security issues across the globe.”

“This requires a much more joined up approach to food security, agricultural policy and climate mitigation than we’ve seen to date. But the risks of failure are significant both on climate change and economically,” Allen concluded.