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

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

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

The very first part of the technique, published in July 2020, provided suggestions for the federal government to deal with food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released second part has actually the specified objective of offering a “comprehensive plan for changing the food system”..

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

Recently, part 2 of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was released, offering a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and intake of food– in England..

The government has committed to producing a white paper and propositions for future laws in reaction within the next 6 months, although the early action from UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually been “noncommittal” to much of the NFS propositions, according to the Guardian.

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

” The worldwide food system is the single biggest contributor to biodiversity loss, logging, dry spell, freshwater pollution and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to environment modification, after the energy industry.”.

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

Davey includes that, in his view, “every country in the world would gain from doing something of this kind”.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a miracle”. While the present food system is capable of feeding the “biggest global population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high ecological cost. The report notes:.

Some have actually criticised the suggestion to tax wholesale sugar and salt as unfair or as disproportionately affecting lower-income households. Others say that the measures laid out in the report do not go far adequate towards making the food system more sustainable.

Its aim was to provide a roadmap for transforming the food system from its current state to one that is healthier for the population and the planet..

The scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the home nations “food systems are so tightly linked as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn find some beneficial concepts” in the strategy.

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

The NFS has actually certainly brought these concerns to the forefront, Edward Davey, the global engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief.

Why is the food strategy important for dealing with climate change?

” Without addressing the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to meet those climate change obligations [set out by law] and to add to mitigating climate change.”.

Under its commitments to the Paris Agreement, the UK has actually promised to reduce 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:.

Attempting to create a healthier population while farming in a less damaging way needs collaboration across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

The food system has seen substantially smaller reductions in sector-wide emissions because 2008 as compared to the economy as a whole: economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions have actually reduced by almost one-third because 2008, but food-related emissions have reduced by just 13% over the same time..

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have caused a third of total global warming because the commercial transformation”, the report notes.

Other significant factors to the emissions include transport, food and fertiliser production and packaging..

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed believing about the food system. From the point of view of integrated national policymaking that provides, its great.”.

Furthermore, practically all of the gains made in the food sector have been due to cleaner energy and increased performance in the energy sector. Modifications due to farming have actually been negligible– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

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

Research study suggests that the food system is responsible for about one-third of international greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about the exact 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%, however various research studies draw different limits around what counts as the food sector.).

What parts of the food technique could make the greatest effect on climate modification?

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

Davey calls the recommendations a “excellent starting point”. However, he adds:.

Ensuring financing for agricultural payments until at least 2029 at the current level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to assist in the transition to sustainable farming. The report likewise states that at least ₤ 500m of this needs to be “ring-fenced” for schemes that encourage environment restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland repair. Creating a “rural land usage structure” that will recommend on the best way that any given piece of land ought to be utilized– whether for nature, agriculture, something or bioenergy else. The proposed structure uses the “three compartment model”, which pursues a balance in between semi-natural land, low-yield farmland and high-yield farmland to satisfy 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), in addition to smaller sized centres to stimulate innovation to “develop a much better food system”. The funds would be focused on innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few locations. Lowering meat usage by 30% over the next years. The report stops brief of recommending a tax on meat to accomplish this goal (as it recommends for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Instead, it states, the government ought to go for “nudging consumers into altering their habits”. Introducing mandatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food business employing more than 250 people. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would allow organizations and the federal government to examine their progress on the goals set out in the report. The program would consist of both the land-use information and the necessary reporting data explained above. Bringing these two types of information together, the report writes, will assist “create a clear, accessible and evolving image of the effect our diet plan has on nature, environment and public health”.

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms actually attend to the climate difficulty … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector needs to do to attain the UK nationwide targets?

What are the constraints of the food method in addressing environment modification?

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

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly require to resolve all kinds of concerns. And if you want to attend to properly the environmental issues, plus the health issues, you actually have to resolve the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

The food system “is really intricate”, Gill states, “however I dont think thats any reason for not actually highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

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

Gill likewise notes that the report, while thorough, does not totally think about the unexpected consequences of its suggestions. For example, a much higher percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables is lost than meat. The suggestions to consume less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

” There are currently lots of meat replaces on the market and much more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more plainly that sustainable and healthy diet plan doesnt necessarily require to include processed meat alternatives would have been necessary, but that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

” Another thing that seems to be missing out on 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 suggestions in the report] to come to fulfillment by which time the world might have altered.”.

The suggestions “appear to be practically sort of looking in reverse rather than looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, tells Carbon Brief. She adds:.

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

The suggestion towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as an essential location in requirement of research funding. Nevertheless, Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is already really well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

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” The kind of land that might provide the biggest ecological advantages is typically not extremely agriculturally productive. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

The chart listed below programs that when the carbon sequestration “chance cost” (yellow bars) is added to the emissions of numerous food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat actually exceeds that of beef, due to the large amounts of land required to graze those animals and their hunger for tree saplings.

Developing the method will involve gathering information on agricultural efficiency, top priority nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated locations. It will likewise build on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– released earlier this year– in order to determine the land finest fit for nature remediation..

The chart below programs how all land in the UK is designated (left) and just how much abroad land is used to produce food for the UK (right).

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a miracle”. The proposed structure uses the “three compartment design”, which aims 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 stimulate innovation to “develop a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would permit organizations and the federal government to assess their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, reveals how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. The teal bars show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance expense”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

The report keeps in mind that with the best incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the method could be mutually beneficial towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

In order to address these contending interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use strategy to best allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of different food products. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, meaning the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

As a result, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform a task of balancings” in offering enough land to produce the needed food, but also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

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

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Nature-based solutions, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are expected to play a significant function in numerous countries and companies net-zero targets, but a lot of these require the repurposing of farming land.

The federal government has devoted to producing an action to the method, including propositions for new legislation, within the next 6 months..

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

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

Reducing meat usage would likewise assist alleviate the stress on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the vast majority of that land.

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