Event Date
Webinar Poster

‘Business-as-usual’ is dead. So what could the UK agri-food system look like in 2050, and what would this mean for research now & net zero?

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‘Business-as-usual’ is dead. The world order – economically, politically, environmentally and socially – is being turned on its head and redrawn. Why then, when thinking about transforming our food system, do we tend to assume the world will just trundle on as it has before, leaving the UK free to carefully redesign its domestic production, supply chains and landscapes – rather than be forced to react to the world around it, at least in part? Prof Neil Ward, co-lead of AFN Network+ and professor of rural and regional development at the University of East Anglia, will paint a picture of four possible futures developed by AFN, that suggest how radically different the world might be in 2050. Based on these, he’ll go deeper into how the UK agri-food system might respond, how net zero could be aspired to under each, and what research gaps emerge.

This webinar is run by AFN Network+ as part of CountrysideCOP3, a programme of events running before COP28 to explore how food and farming can tackle climate change.

Neil will cover:

  • Why we need to break out of ‘business-as-usual’ mindset & how scenarios help
  • The global factors driving change towards an increasingly uncertain future
  • Four future, four paths – scenarios of different 2050 worlds & the UK food system
  • Shared features and contradictions across these divergent futures
  • Emerging research gaps on the agri-food path towards net zero

This webinar will be chaired by Professor Tom MacMillan, Elizabeth Creak Chair in Rural Policy and Strategy, at the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester.

About Neil:

As well as a co-convenor of AFN Network+, Neil Ward is a professor of rural and regional development at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia (UEA), where he was deputy vice chancellor and PVC-Academic (2013-21). He has held chairs at the University of Leeds and Newcastle University, where he was director of the Centre for Rural Economy from 2004 to 2008. He has also worked for periods on secondment to the Cabinet Office and as an advisor to the Economic and Social Research Council. His research interests are in rural economic and social change, agriculture, food and environmental policy and regional development. His latest book is Net Zero, Food and Farming: Climate Change and the UK Agri-Food System (Routledge 2023).

About Tom:

Professor Tom MacMillan is Elizabeth Creak Chair in Rural Policy and Strategy, at the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester. One of his main interests is how to make agricultural research more useful on the ground and in policy. He co-directs the Centre for Effective Innovation in Agriculture. He advises the Food, Farming & Countryside Commission, and was policy advisor for the National Food Strategy, led by Henry Dimbleby. Tom joined the RAU from the Soil Association, where he was Director of Innovation. There, he founded the Innovative Farmers network, which supports practical ‘field labs’ by farmers. From 2003-2011 he was Executive Director of the Food Ethics Council.

About the webinar series:

This webinar is part of a series run by AFN Network+, exploring net zero in the UK agri-food system with leading movers and shakers. Expect deep and varied insight from across the sector, including farmers, scientists, policy analysts, community leaders, retailers, politicians, businesses and health professionals. AFN Network+ is a 3-year UKRI-funded project coordinated by the Universities of East Anglia, West of England, York, and Leeds. The network has 700+ academics, researchers, third sector organisations, policy makers, and agri-food industry professionals from farmers to retailers. Together we are working to identify key research needs to help the UK food system transition towards a net zero UK by 2050.

Watch past webinars here.

Follow AFN Network+ on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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In 2015, the UK pledged to be Net Zero by 2050, with the NFU striving for the more ambitious target of 2040. Net Zero is achieved when the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted is balanced with those removed from the atmosphere. This helps to combat climate change and reduce global warming.

This topic refers to the whole food supply chain, from farm fork, and all the products and services that contribute to food production.

Climate change threatens our ability to ensure global food security, eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development. In 2016, 31 percent of global emissions originating from human activity came from agrifood systems.