£407 added to 2022 food bill by oil & gas prices and climate change – new research

In total, climate change and oil and gas prices have driven up average UK household food bills by a total of £11.4 billion.

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By George Smeeton


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This study is one of the first to assess the joint impact of climate change and fossil fuels on UK consumer food prices. It finds:

  • British households will pay an extra £407 each for food this year due to climate change impacting global food production and the rising world prices for oil, gas and fertilisers.
  • Last year, £407 would have bought the average home almost one and a half months’ worth of food. Now every household is spending that much money due to increased food prices caused by climate change and oil and gas.
  • In total, climate change and oil and gas prices have driven up average UK household food bills by a total of £11.4 billion.
  • These two factors could account for as much as 88% of overall food price inflation.
  • Food prices have gone up because the impacts of increasing global temperatures and the price of energy affects all parts of the food system, including agriculture.
  • Food prices will continue to be volatile, and UK food security could be affected, unless global action on climate change occurs and agriculture reduces its reliance on oil and gas.

The average food shop will cost UK households £407 more this year due to climate change and the price of oil and gas, according to new research from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. Of this, £170 is due to climate change and £236 is due to the cost of oil and gas.

Rising costs of gas have pushed up the prices of fertilisers for farmers and of energy throughout the food supply chain. Climate change is already affecting food prices by causing extreme weather and the UK’s food supplies could be increasingly put at risk, and made more expensive, by these extremes.

The report Climate, Fossil Fuels and UK Food Prices [1], was carried out by researchers from the universities of Bournemouth, Exeter and Sheffield who looked at fossil fuel price rises and the rise in global temperatures relative to a 1950-80 baseline, to calculate the impact on food prices.

This year the UK’s record breaking heatwave was made ten times more likely due to climate change, and the drought it contributed to could lead to potato harvests falling by 50% [2]. In western Europe the drought was made at least 20 times more likely due to climate change and affected crops in a range of countries. Meanwhile, Pakistan, the second largest exporter of rice to the UK after India, has suffered catastrophic flooding which could lead to impacts on its harvests.

Matt Williams, Climate and Land Programme Lead at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said: “Imagine taking six trolleys of weekly shops through the checkout. That’s how much extra households are paying for food this year due to gas prices and climate change. Like families, the farmers who grow our food are being put under pressure by drought, and by the high cost of fertilisers which are made using gas. Better protecting our soils, planting trees and hedgerows to protect against extreme rainfall and shifting to low-carbon fertilisers are non-negotiables if we want our farming to become more resilient and ultimately to protect our food security.”

The Government has committed to a new subsidy scheme for farmers, Environmental Land Management, which will support them in restoring soils’ natural health and so cut their use of chemical fertilisers, which could be costing farmers an extra £1.1 billion because they are made from expensive gas [3]. The new system will also reward environmental measures, such as including more trees alongside food production. More trees and hedges can help to slow the flow of water and prevent flooding, and can also provide vital shade for livestock as the climate warms.

Honorary Professor Wyn Morgan, University of Sheffield, one of the report authors, said “The analysis underpins how the UK food system as a whole is exposed to global climate change and events on world markets and points to the importance of action to promote a more resilient food and agricultural sector in the UK.”

Nicky Amos, Public Affairs Chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, said: “Although it may not say climate change on the till receipt, it’s definitely showing up on our shopping bills. Weather extremes will continue to worsen until we bring our climate back into balance by reaching net zero emissions. We must make our food and farming more sustainable and resilient to these impacts to ensure our food security and ensure we aren’t facing increasing food poverty. Buying more wonky veg is a step we can take to cut waste, eat more healthily, and reduce our shopping bills. We know the public are willing to play their part, so we need supermarkets to help by relaxing their produce appearance standards to stock more wonky fruit and veg.”

Emeritus Professor Simon Capewell, University of Liverpool, said: "Inequalities kill. Indeed, increasing health inequalities over the last decade have generated at least 300,000 additional deaths in the UK. The ongoing, substantial rises in food prices will particularly hurt low income families, and thus further worsen health inequalities, generating an additional burden of death, disease and disability which will further stress the NHS, UK workforce and economy. Government policies to mitigate (rather than worsen) poverty are thus urgently required."

Sabine Goodwin, Coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network said: "More and more people are struggling to afford food as prices soar while charitable food aid providers are struggling to cope with rising demand. The Government must address the root causes of food price increases as well as mitigate their effect on household incomes through a cash first approach to growing food insecurity."

Dr Jim Scown, Programme Co-Lead: Farming Transition, at the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, said: "This report sets out how geopolitical and climate shocks, such as the rising costs of energy caused by the war in Ukraine and the extreme heat and now drought in the UK, are coming together to increase the price of food for people at the checkout. It is a powerful reminder of the fragility of a global food system reliant on fossil fuels. But there is an alternative. A transition to an agroecological food system, built on fair and regenerative practices that allow farmers to produce plentiful, healthy food in climate and nature-positive ways, can enhance food security for households and the nation while supporting landscapes and communities to adapt to climate change."

Professor Corinna Hawkes, Director of the Centre for Food Policy, at City, University of London, said: “This important piece of analysis is one of the first times we have seen how important climate change is in influencing food prices. Climate change is not a distant threat, but affects the money we all have in our pockets every day. We cannot isolate cause and effect. We have to understand the full range of factors that influence food prices in order to understand what to do about them.”

Darren Baxter, Senior Policy Advisor, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “Food prices, which are rising faster than at any point since 1980, continue to push the rate of inflation higher. In the face of these rising prices, families on the lowest incomes have even less ability to pay for what they need due to cuts and freezes to our social security system, with many routinely going without essentials.

“The Government must urgently strengthen our social security system while also taking steps to limit the impacts of climate change, and the increased food prices families face as a result, on UK food production.”

Notes to editors:

1. The report, Climate, Fossil Fuels and UK Food Prices, is attached to this email and is available here: https://eciu.net/analysis/reports/2022/climate-change-fossil-fuels-and-uk-food-prices

2. Mass crop failures expected in England as farmers demand hosepipe bans: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/aug/12/mass-crop-failures-expected-in-england-as-farmers-demand-hosepipe-bans

3. ECIU research on UK fertiliser bills for farmers: https://eciu.net/media/press-releases/2022/two-more-years-of-high-gas-prices-could-leave-british-farmers-paying-1-1-billion-extra-for-fertilisers

4. ECIU research on extra liquid CO2 bill for UK food and drink industry: https://eciu.net/media/press-releases/2022/gas-prices-adding-1-7-billion-to-cost-of-beer-and-bangers

For more information:

George Smeeton, Head of Communications, ECIU, Tel: 07894 571 153, email: george.smeeton@eciu.net