Climate change and urban agriculture

Urban growers are climate change champions!

We see the impacts of climate change every day:

Extreme weather     Poor air quality    Drought    Stronger pests and plant diseases

What growing food in the city can do:

  • Reduce food miles, or the amount of fossil fuels burned and carbon emitted when food travels long distances. Also reduces the need for processing, packaging and refrigeration to preserve food over long distances.
  • Growing food with sustainable methods reduces the need for petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, and traps carbon particles in the soil. Composting organic waste reduces methane emissions from landfill sites.
  • More green spaces = cooler temperatures. Green cover reduces the heat island effect that traps pollution and greenhouse gases in urban areas.
  • Green rooftops = more green spaces.
  • Plants absorb airborne particles, so you can breathe easier!
  • More people involved = greater impact! Food engages people who might not get involved in environmental issues. 
  • Shift eating habits towards plant-based diets that leave a lighter environmental footprint. 


Green cover can have a striking impact on temperature and air quality.

Getting started

David Suzuki Foundation has practical tips on reducing your impact.

Live Green Toronto - programs for Toronto residents including local food promotion and a Live Green card that gets you discounts and offers for local green businesses.

Toronto Vegetarian Association makes the argument that what you eat matters more than how far it has traveled. Scroll down their page for a breakdown of energy consumption for each calorie of food.

Watch this short and fact-filled video from the Climate Change Urban Food Initiative that explains why action is needed now to ensure urban populations can access sufficient, sustainably produced, affordable, safe and nutritious food in a changing climate.

They also have a policy paper that presents the challenges associated with feeding cities in a changing climate and how urban areas can take a leadership role in driving more sustainable food systems. You can also watch the video or read the policy paper in French.

The Climate Change Urban Food Initiative was launched in late 2015 by Fondation Nicolas Hulot (FNH), the International Urban Food Network (IUFN) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The aim was to highlight the strategic links between Sustainable Food Systems, Sustainable Urban Development and Climate Change, and to showcase successful mechanisms and approaches to help respond to the challenges of achieving sustainable urban food systems in a changing climate.

Digging deeper

Durham Region policy on climate change has a section on food systems.

The Clean Air Partnership produced a Scan on Local Food Procurement (2011) in the Greater Toronto Area.

Climate change affects pollinators such as bees. See this website for more information.

Climate change strengthens pests, weeds and plant diseases - Huffington Post article

Research - urban agriculture

RUAF's Urban Agriculture Magazine issue #27 Urban agriculture as a climate change and disaster mitigation strategy. Many international articles, overview articles relevant to most cities and two articles on rooftop growing. 

Climate and Development Knowledge Network looks at climate mitigation strategies in three cities around the world.

Research - Rural Agriculture

IFOAM's statement on the role of organic agriculture in mitigating climate change.

The Climate and Land Use Alliance focuses on global rural agricultural production. 

An easy-to-read report The Untapped Potential.


Page updated on 2016-05-17 09:56:06