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Price of inaction on climate change? £18 beer and £6 bread

Expensive MenuWhat’s the price of failure to act on climate change? In the UK, it could be £6.50 for a loaf of bread and £18 for a pint of beer by the year 2030.

That’s the future envisioned by “Climate change, food, poverty and the price of failure to the UK,” a report released today by Friends of the Earth. Prepared by Ray Hammond, an expert in predicting future social and economic trends and a visiting lecturer at the University of Oxford’s Institute for the Future of Humanity, the report models the impact of climate change on food prices using previous price hikes recorded by the World Bank and projections by the International Food Policy Research Institute.

“Our global food production is already precarious — and climate change threatens to tip it into disaster,” Hammond said. “£6.50 for a loaf of bread, £7 for a bag of pasta and £18 for a pint of lager — this is what the future looks like in Britain if we don’t prevent dangerous climate change.”

The figures were published 40 days in advance of UN climate negotiations, set to kick off in Copenhagen this December.

According to the report, the price of staple foods could rocket four and a half times above normal inflation as a changing climate puts extra stress on land and resources around the world, exacerbating the already existing food crisis. Such stress will cause yields of crops like wheat, rice and maize to fall, and alter patterns of trade and consumption.

Projected prices of staple foods in 2030 include:

  • £6.48 for a 800g loaf of white bread (now 72p, would be £1.44 with normal inflation)
  • £17.91 for a 1 litre corn oil (now £1.99, would be £3.98 with normal inflation)
  • £15.21 for 1 kg of basmati rice (now £1.69, would be £3.38 with normal inflation)
  • £7.20 for 500g corn flakes (now 78p, would be £1.56 with normal inflation)
  • £16.02 for 24 Weetabix-style biscuits (now £1.78, would be £3.56 with normal inflation)
  • £18.45 for a pint of Pilsner lager (now £2.05, would be £4.05 with normal inflation)

According to Hammond, the report is a reminder that global warming will hit ordinary Britons hard, as well as causing storms, droughts, famine and floods that will affect the developing world. He echoed Friends of the Earth’s call for a strong and fair agreement in Copenhagen.

Hammond also advised urgent political action to address the underlying causes of the food crisis.

“Rich countries must take strong and decisive action to propel us towards a strong and fair agreement in Copenhagen in December — otherwise many people in the UK will face a Dickensian struggle to afford food and millions of people in the developing world will be condemned to early deaths,” he said.

“This vision of life in 2030 shows that life with climate change won’t be pretty, it’ll be pricey — the cost of simple foods like bread and rice will rocket and millions more people will go hungry here in the UK alone,” added Mike Childs, head of climate at Friends of the Earth. “There is still time to avert this nightmare scenario. At the UN climate talks in Copenhagen in just 40 days, rich countries must show leadership by stumping up hard cash for developing countries to grow cleanly and adapt to the effects of climate change already putting millions of lives at risk.”

Childs continued, “Rich nations must also slash their emissions first and fast — cutting them by at least 40 per cent by 2020, without offsetting, to get us on the road to a strong and fair climate agreement which will safeguard the future of our planet and everyone on it.

“The root causes of the food crisis must also be tackled,” he said. “We need urgent political action to create fair global food supplies and make farming planet-friendly — from field to fork our food currently creates up to half of all greenhouse gas emissions.”

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