Trade, Covid-19 and climate: why it’s not all about air miles | FT Trade Secrets

Senior FT trade writer Alan Beattie explains how the true environmental cost of trading flowers, meat and fruit globally is becoming clearer as debate focuses on the carbon footprint of these products and their contribution to global warming. He looks at the long supply chains for flowers and lamb, and how these could be changed by Covid-19

Kovat has done a lot of damage to a lot of supply chains around the world economy but even before it hit many people asking about the downsides of global trade and with climate change one of the most pressing concerns of the public and policymakers worldwide one particular issue with the carbon footprint of air fighting and shipping goods particularly food and flowers

Around the world no one knows what kovat might end up doing to global supply chains but it wouldn’t be surprising if some companies decided to buy more from closer to home and if that means fewer planes and cargo ships that’s good for the environment as well right well not necessarily closer doesn’t always mean greener take flowers for instance if you live in britain

And you want to buy flowers for your valentine or anytime during winter well they have been grown if they’re roses probably not locally at least not outside people don’t want to have to wait till summer to express their affection so a supply chain for flowers thousands of miles long has carefully been constructed that means more than half of the uk’s valentines

Roses are flown in from kenya the same is true if it’s want to eat kiwi fruit outside the european growing season or mangoes at more or less any time a lot of this kind of perishable produce things like vegetables and fruits and flowers normally comes to shops having been flown in to airport warehouses across the country those supply chains have been hammered bike

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Ovid social distancing and canceled flights have cut kenyan growers off from their rich world markets tons of produce destined for british consumers have been left to rot and even when those companies tried to establish themselves worries about carbon footprints and climate change it’ll still be there carbon has become an increasingly important issue in trade the

European union is even thinking of imposing a carbon border tax on imports of goods from countries that don’t tax their own carbon emissions it is also in effect banned the import of palm oil and countries like indonesia and malaysia because of its impact on deforestation consumers too are looking at the impact of what they buy a new generation of campaigners is

Urging people to eat less meat avoid air travel in normal times and buy local produce which people are more likely to do anyway during the pandemic the concept of food miles the distance from field to fork is used to guide consumers and its aim is to reduce the distance traveled by food products and to get households to buy health relief for the world not just for

Themselves the same approach has been taken to flowers if you want to buy flowers closer to home you can get them from the netherlands like a lot of the blooms in london’s new covent garden market which is still at least partially managing to operate throughout the pandemic surely that’s a smaller carbon footprint actually no distance isn’t everything you see a lot

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Depends on how the flowers or the food are produced the netherlands uses heated greenhouses while kenyan roses are growing in the sunshine and in fact some research suggests that the energy that goes into hothouse conservation actually produces a bigger carbon footprint than flowers sent by air freight which have grown in the sun calculating a carbon footprint

Is complex and the picture may shift depending on the inputs you might need electricity for irrigation and refrigeration you might use more renewable energy to produce electricity for hot houses electric vehicles for transportation one country particularly exercise about this is new zealand 12,000 miles away from london it’s well known as a world-class producer of

Lamb which it normally sells via butchers and supermarkets across the uk it also sells dairy and apples and kiwi fruit throughout europe and further afield and it’s still continuing to ship around the world despite the pandemic and it’s hard to accuse new zealanders of being environmental vandals they passed a law to go carbon neutral by 2050 they’re even using

Special chambers to measure how often sheath belts methane in order to breed sheets of the lower methane output and so minimise greenhouse gases but like the kenyans new zealanders are concerned that the concept of food miles could be a threat to their exports so what’s the reality lincoln university in new zealand compared carbon emissions from producing lamb

Dairy and apples in new zealand to the uk they showed that because new zealand farmers use less artificial feed and fertilizer and more renewable energy that produces less carbon-intensive even once you’ve shipped it all the way to britain now estimate is conclusive but again it’s clear that it’s much more than just distance it’s easy to think of airliners burning

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Fuel it’s harder to think of all the other inputs that affect carbon emissions transport is usually a tiny part of the carbon footprint of food it’s much more what you consume and where it’s from that matters even beef or lamb production that strives to be eco-friendly creates a lot more carbon emissions than plant-based foods like beans or rice kovat will cause

A lot of supply chains to be re-engineered but not necessarily for the better for consumers or the planet’s climate long distance by air freight or cargo ship doesn’t necessarily mean bad and short distance doesn’t necessarily mean good for those kenyan farmers currently struggling with the loss of their incomes growing flowers is one of their best ways of making

A living so before we use climate change as a reason to cut them off permanently from their european markets let’s make sure we’ve done the sums right

Transcribed from video
Trade, Covid-19 and climate: why it's not all about air miles | FT Trade Secrets By Financial Times

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