What’s Climate Got To Do With the Price of Your Bread?

What I learned from a French bakery about bread in uncertain times

J.R. Flaherty
3 min readFeb 4, 2022
Author’s own photo

Last night I watched the governor of the Bank Of England explain an interest rate rise to a BBC journalist, after the earlier news that our energy bills are more than doubling now and so the government will be giving a freak-out “loan” to take the “sting” (government’s words) out of energy bills that are to be paid back over 5 years, and then the Governor said that people shouldn’t ask for pay rises this year because that will tip inflation over the edge (heard that one before in 2009, should we take one for the team? You mean, your team BoE?), and then finally the governor of the Bank of England mentioned something about bread.


Phew! It was easy to miss it because there were a lot of smacks on the head to take in over a three minute news report.

“Wheat prices are going up around the world,” he said. Casually, almost as an aside. The way economists do.

You know what happens next. It’s as old as time. When wheat prices go up, it affects the price of bread.

But why are wheat prices going up?

I don’t want to throw around too many stats but let’s take one from the USDA. The wheat crop from last year is down over 40%. It’s the smallest crop in twenty years.

That’s because of irregular weather patterns last year, which is climate change in effect. Part of a complex picture developing.

Crunchy baguettes

Mmm. This makes me think of Paris.

Not the 2015 climate convention to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees. No, I’m thinking of the bakeries.

Bien sur!

Paris bakeries.

In particular, the Paris bakery where I would buy a fresh baguette every day.

On the inside door of all bakeries in France you will find a list of prices written in pen.

When I asked what it means, the bakery assistant explained the government learned long ago they can not put up the prices of bread otherwise there will be riots in the street.

So it is a law to show the bread price. It is set by law to 1 euro.

All bakers in France are required by law to sell bread at 1€ to avoid people dying for want of bread.

The Paris commune have always been a formidable bunch. They don’t take any merde from the government.

Bread for all. (And delicieux, too).

Crunchy energy prices

The other thing it reminds me of is how climate change will affect energy prices and politics.

Back to France.

We find out Macron will highly subsidise the energy bills for a couple of months before his election. He has learned his lesson.

In his first term he tried to add a fuel tax that kicked off the yellow vest movement that lasted for years.

The last thing he wants is another energy price rise. And more riots.

It’s not governments putting up energy prices. Although try telling an already organised movement in France that.

So Macron preempted it. France absorbs the shock so there is only a 4% rise rather than the 50% in the rest of Europe. He knows his history.

Of course, this crunch could be partially avoided if there was more strategy with renewable energy over the years. Even if we couldn’t predict everything 2020, we rely on governments when it comes to energy security and, you know crazy idea, planning for climate change disruptions.

When you think it was only 3 months ago at COP26 when we were told fossil fuels must end by Boris Johnson.

Now we are looking at a war in the Ukraine (the supply of one third of gas to Europe), high wheat prices and eye-watering energy bills.

It's feeling like the time for talk and planning is over.

In other news today:

Shell announce a year on year profit hike of $19.29 billion for 2021.

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