Q&A: Will England’s National Food Strategy help tackle climate change?

The first part of the method, released in July 2020, provided suggestions for the government to resolve food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly published second part has the mentioned objective of supplying a “comprehensive plan for changing the food system”..

The NFS is the culmination of more than 2 years worth of conferences and dialogues with industry leaders, academics, policymakers and the public.

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, lays out 14 recommendations for the UK government to think about, consisting of financial incentives, reporting and trade standards and targets for long-lasting change in the food system..

In this Q&A, Carbon Brief examines the report and discusses how its recommendations align– or do not line up– with the UKs climate targets and decarbonisation goals.

Last week, sequel of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was released, supplying a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– an all-inclusive term that covers the production, processing, transport and intake of food– in England..

The government has dedicated to producing a white paper and proposals for future laws in reaction within the next six months, although the early response from UK prime minister Boris Johnson has been “noncommittal” to much of the NFS propositions, according to the Guardian.

What is the National Food Strategy?

Its aim was to supply a roadmap for changing the food system from its present state to one that is healthier for the population and the planet..

The NFS was commissioned by the UK federal government in 2019 as the first independent review of the federal governments food policy in almost three-quarters of a century.

Davey adds that, in his view, “every country in the world would take advantage of doing something of this kind”.

The reaction to last weeks release saw members of parliament, star chefs and even rockstars weighing in on its significance.

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a catastrophe”. While the present food system is capable of feeding the “biggest international population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high environmental expense. The report notes:.

This report by @food_strategy has some interesting and far reaching ideas that would indicate a huge modification for the better in our food system and make us all much healthier. I hope that these plans will be used up by this federal government. https://t.co/gl5rZJCrhO— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) July 15, 2021.

” The global food system is the single greatest contributor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, dry spell, freshwater contamination and the collapse of marine wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to climate modification, after the energy market.”.

The NFS has actually definitely brought these problems to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the worldwide engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief.

Some have criticised the suggestion to tax wholesale sugar and salt as unjust or as disproportionately affecting lower-income families. Others state that the steps laid out in the report do not go far enough towards making the food system more sustainable.

The scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the house countries “food systems are so securely interwoven as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “may in turn find some useful ideas” in the strategy.

Why is the food method essential for dealing with climate change?

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are due to farming, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have actually caused a third of overall worldwide warming because the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

The food system has actually seen significantly smaller decreases in sector-wide emissions since 2008 as compared to the economy as a whole: economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by nearly one-third since 2008, however food-related emissions have decreased by only 13% over the same time..

Other significant contributors to the emissions consist of food, fertiliser and transportation manufacturing and product packaging..

” Without resolving the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to satisfy those environment change obligations [laid out by law] and to contribute to mitigating environment modification.”.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a portion of the 2008 emissions in that sector. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Under its dedications to the Paris Agreement, the UK has actually pledged to decrease emissions from 1990 levels by 68% by 2030. The federal government has also set a lawfully binding target to accomplish net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Springmann says:.

” Theres rather a great deal of siloed thinking of the food system. From the point of view of integrated nationwide policymaking that delivers, its fantastic.”.

Research study suggests that the food system is responsible for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the very same for the UK, Dr Marco Springmann, a population health scientist at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, tells Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, but different research studies draw different borders around what counts as the food sector.).

Attempting to produce a much healthier population while farming in a less destructive way requires partnership across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

Virtually all of the gains made in the food sector have been due to cleaner energy and increased efficiency in the energy sector. Modifications due to farming have been minimal– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

What parts of the food strategy could make the most significant effect on environment change?

Davey calls the suggestions a “great starting point”. He includes:.

” The question is how quickly will those reforms actually address the climate challenge … I think the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the perspective of what the land sector needs to do to accomplish the UK nationwide targets? I do not know. Its definitely a step in the ideal direction, however theres most likely an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

The proposed structure utilizes the “3 compartment design”, which strives for a balance between semi-natural land, low-yield farmland and high-yield farmland to fulfill the targets of both sustainability and food production.Investing ₤ 1bn in UK Research and Innovation and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), as well as smaller sized centres to spur innovation to “produce a better food system”. Presenting obligatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food business utilizing more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data programme, which would allow services and the federal government to assess their progress on the objectives laid out in the report.

Numerous of the recommendations made in the report relate in some way to environment modification or ecological sustainability. These suggestions consist of:.

What are the constraints of the food strategy in dealing with environment change?

” There are already plenty of meat replaces on the market and even more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet does not necessarily need to include processed meat alternatives would have been essential, but that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

” Another thing that seems to be missing is that foresighting, wheres the world going to from other sectors … Theres going to be a change in farming … And its going to take years [for the recommendations in the report] to come to fulfillment by which time the world may have altered.”.

The commissioning of the report– it was led by entrepreneur and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– suggests the report itself “shows a bit of a manipulated focus” towards business-focused services, Springmann states.

Gill also notes that the report, while comprehensive, does not completely consider the unintended repercussions of its suggestions. A much higher percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables is wasted than meat. So the suggestions to eat less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you actually need to deal with all sort of problems. And if you want to deal with properly the ecological concerns, plus the health concerns, you actually have to address the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

Limousin beef livestock in a barn feeding on hay, Selside UK. Credit: John Bentley/ Alamy Stock Photo.

The report also “truly shied” far from taking a strong position on decreasing meat usage, Springmann says, with influence on both the environment and public health. He states:.

The food system “is really complicated”, Gill says, “however I dont believe thats any excuse for not really highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

For instance, the recommendation towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as a crucial area in requirement of research funding. Springmann says, the alternative-protein market is already very well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

The suggestions “seem to be practically sort of looking backwards instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, informs Carbon Brief. She adds:.

How does the food strategy address the competing interests of farming land use and land usage for carbon sequestration?

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of various food. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity cost”, implying the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Sharelines from this story.

The chart listed below shows how all land in the UK is designated (left) and how much overseas land is utilized to produce food for the UK (right).

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has approximated that simply over 20% of agricultural land should be rewilded or converted to bioenergy or other, non-agricultural crops in order to accomplish net-zero by 2050. The NFS report states:.

Establishing the technique will include collecting information on agricultural efficiency, top priority nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted areas. It will also develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched previously this year– in order to identify the land finest suited for nature restoration..

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. The proposed structure uses the “three compartment design”, which makes every effort for a balance between semi-natural land, low-yield farmland and high-yield farmland to meet the targets of both sustainability and food production.Investing ₤ 1bn in UK Research and Innovation and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), as well as smaller centres to spur innovation to “produce a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would enable organizations and the government to evaluate their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the very same scale, shows how much land is utilized abroad to produce food for the UK. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance cost”, implying the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

Nature-based options, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are expected to play a significant role in numerous countries and companies net-zero targets, however a lot of these require the repurposing of agricultural land.

The chart listed below shows that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity expense” (yellow bars) is added to the emissions of different food groups (teal bars), the carbon expense of lamb and goat meat really exceeds that of beef, due to the big amounts of land needed to graze those animals and their cravings for tree saplings.

” Globally, the biggest potential carbon benefit of eating less meat would not really be the decrease in emissions, but the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

Lowering meat intake would likewise help reduce the stress on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the vast bulk of that land.

As a result, the report says, the food system is being “asked to perform a feat of balancings” in offering enough land to produce the necessary food, however likewise to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

In order to resolve these competing interests, the report calls for a national land-use technique to finest allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

However, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually already shown his hesitancy to support some of the policy suggestions laid out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, alerts Springmann:.

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” The sort of land that could provide the biggest environmental advantages is often not really agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

” Implementation of any of those suggestions truly needs political will … The recommendations themselves could have been more progressive, but even the ones that exist do not seem to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

The report notes that with the right rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy could be mutually helpful towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, reveals how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. The combined land area for raising beef and lamb for UK intake is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The federal government has committed to producing an action to the technique, consisting of proposals for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

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