13 August 2021

Reaction: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report

Jon Davies, Managing Director of Levy UK + I

The latest (sixth) report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) this week makes for sober reading, confirming that it is “unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land” and that in 2019 “atmospheric CO2 concentrations were higher than at any time in at least 2 million years”.  

Decisions we make now will impact future generations – we will hit at least 1.5 degrees (against pre-industrial levels) of warming by around 2040 whatever we do but the real difference we can make is what the global temperature will be beyond 2040. We could (just about) keep it at 1.5 degrees through immediate and rapid global action or we could see a temperature increase of well over 4 degrees by the end of this century which would bring about a widespread global climate catastrophe and wholesale human misery, especially in those countries least able to react to the climate changes that will impact them most. 

The report reminds us that with “every additional increment of global warming, changes in extremes continue to become larger” noting that every additional 0.5°C of global warming causes clearly discernible increases in the intensity and frequency of hot extremes and heavy precipitation, as well as agricultural and ecological droughts. The report notes dryly that there “will be an increasing occurrence of some extreme events unprecedented in the observational record with additional global warming - even at 1.5°C of global warming” which basically says that we are going to experience in the coming years, come what may, weather events that have never been witnessed before in recent human history. 

Despite the bleak picture the report paints, there are actions we can take to help prevent the paint from drying in a certain way. At Levy UK + I, we’ve committed to getting to a net zero position by 2027 and we are acting now on issues such as banning air freighted produce, sourcing as seasonally and as locally as possible, and focusing on reducing food waste, as well as investigating more innovative circular food solutions. We’ve also done extensive work to re-engineer our menus to have a more plant-forward approach and we’re introducing a 50/50 mushroom and beef burger to help cut our red meat output by 50%. All this fits into our Levy Cares Charter which outlines our plans fully. 

We realise that we can't do this on our own and having partnerships that back us to achieve this is key to making an impact. We’re working in partnership with Compass Group UK&I to support its own Climate Promise, targeting Climate Net Zero emissions by 2030. The SEC (Scottish Events Campus), one of our venue partners, has announced its new food strategy to source at least 80% of its food from Scotland, with all produce sourced from high-welfare producers with sustainable agriculture processes, ahead of COP26.

This new food strategy champions high-quality, environmentally friendly local suppliers. The food and drink offering at the landmark Glasgow venue will offer a broader range of plant-based options alongside premium and low-impact, local animal protein sources.  

The new food strategy also includes a plan for packaging, with a commitment that all packaging used will be reusable or recyclable by 2023. The venue is also making strides in the fight against food waste and aims to have reduced kitchen wastage to under 1% of food purchases by 2025 or sooner[1]. Food waste will continue to be diverted from landfill to anaerobic digestion processing.

Unfortunately, some things are already too late to stop, whatever we do from this point onwards – polar ice sheets and glaciers worldwide will melt, our seas and oceans will getter hotter and rise further and become more acidic and deoxygenated. These changes “are irreversible on centennial to millennial time scales” – i.e. we will have to live with rising sea levels for thousands of years into the future. 

This brings into stark reality the immediacy of the challenge and the fact that we can still change many things. The report stresses the need for us to act now to limit “human-induced global warming to a specific level requires limiting cumulative CO2 emissions, reaching at least net zero CO2 emissions, along with strong reductions in other greenhouse gas emissions”. On the latter point, strong and rapid reductions in methane emissions are highlighted as urgently needed by the report and reinforces our need to push forward with more plant-forward diets and a reduction in the amount of animal protein we have on our menus. Agriculture is the biggest producer of methane emissions – from cattle grazing and rice production in the main – and change here is very achievable. 

We’ll admit, we’re not perfect, but we are aiming to limit our emissions as much as possible and we are focusing on controlling what is in our gift to do so. We must act now to save the futures of our children and grandchildren. The alternative would be unforgivable. 



  [1] SEC donates surplus non-perishable food to local charity Launch Foods. In 2020, SEC donated around 10,000 food items to the charity who distribute it through local community organisations and schools.