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

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

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

In this Q&A, Carbon Brief explains and takes a look at the report how its recommendations align– or do not align– with the UKs environment targets and decarbonisation goals.

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, lays out 14 recommendations for the UK federal government to consider, including monetary incentives, reporting and trade requirements and targets for long-lasting modification in the food system..

The very first part of the method, 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 freshly published 2nd part has the mentioned objective of offering a “comprehensive prepare for changing the food system”..

Last week, sequel of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was released, supplying a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transport and consumption of food– in England..

What is the National Food Strategy?

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. While the current food system can feeding the “biggest international population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high environmental cost. The report notes:.

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

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

Nevertheless, the NFS has definitely brought these concerns to the forefront, Edward Davey, the worldwide engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief. He describes:.

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

Its goal was to offer a roadmap for changing the food system from its current state to one that is healthier for the planet and the population..

The scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the home nations “food systems are so securely interwoven as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “might in turn find some beneficial ideas” in the method.

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

” [The report] brings everybody around the table for a dialogue about what sort of system do we have, what sort of system do we wish to bring, what are the compromises and might governments do things differently.”.

Davey adds that, in his view, “every country worldwide would gain from doing something of this kind”.

” The international food system is the single most significant contributor to biodiversity loss, logging, drought, freshwater pollution and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to climate change, after the energy industry.”.

Why is the food strategy crucial for dealing with climate modification?

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

Research suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of international greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the exact same for the UK, Dr Marco Springmann, a population health researcher at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, informs Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, but various studies draw various limits around what counts as the food sector.).

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to farming, consisting of rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have actually triggered a third of total international warming given that the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

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

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

Attempting to create a much healthier population while farming in a less destructive method needs cooperation throughout disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a portion of the 2008 emissions because sector. By 2018, emissions had actually minimized by 13%, however none of this modification was because of enhancements in agriculture. General emissions decreased by 32% over that same period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

” Without addressing the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to fulfill those climate change commitments [set out by law] and to contribute to mitigating environment change.”.

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed thinking of the food system. So, from the point of view of integrated national policymaking that delivers, its great.”.

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

What parts of the food method could make the greatest influence on environment modification?

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms actually attend to the climate challenge … I think the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector requires to do to accomplish the UK nationwide targets?

Many of the suggestions made in the report relate in some way to environment modification or environmental sustainability. These suggestions include:.

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

The proposed structure utilizes the “3 compartment design”, which strives for a balance in 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 centres to stimulate innovation to “develop a much better food system”. Introducing necessary reporting on a range of metrics for food business employing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would allow companies and the government to evaluate their progress on the objectives laid out in the report.

What are the restrictions of the food strategy in dealing with environment modification?

Gill also notes that the report, while thorough, does not fully consider the unintentional repercussions of its suggestions. A much greater proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is wasted than meat. So the suggestions to consume less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

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

The recommendations “appear to be nearly sort of looking in reverse instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, tells Carbon Brief. She includes:.

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

” There are already plenty of meat substitutes on the marketplace and even more so when you consider natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet plan doesnt always need to consist of processed meat options would have been important, however that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The recommendation towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as a key area in need of research study funding. Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is already extremely strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

The commissioning of the report– it was led by entrepreneur and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– indicates the report itself “reveals a little bit of a manipulated focus” towards business-focused solutions, Springmann says.

The report likewise “really shied” far from taking a strong position on reducing meat consumption, Springmann says, with effect on both the environment and public health. He states:.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly need to resolve all kinds of concerns. And if you wish to resolve appropriately the ecological concerns, plus the health issues, you actually have to attend to the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

” 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 transformation in farming … And its going to take years [for the suggestions in the report] to come to fulfillment by which time the world may have changed.”.

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

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

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

As a result, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform a task of acrobatics” in supplying sufficient land to produce the essential food, however also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Establishing the strategy will involve collecting information on agricultural performance, concern nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted locations. It will likewise develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched previously this year– in order to identify the land best matched for nature remediation..

The federal government has actually devoted to producing a response to the strategy, including proposals for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

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Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of numerous foodstuff. The teal bars show the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity expense”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

” The type of land that could deliver the best ecological benefits is typically not really agriculturally efficient. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

UK land location divided up by function. About 70% is dedicated to agriculture, generally animals and animals feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very same scale, demonstrates how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land use occurs overseas. The combined land area for raising beef and lamb for UK intake is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has currently 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:.

” Implementation of any of those recommendations truly requires political will … The suggestions themselves could have been more progressive, but even the ones that are there dont appear to resonate very much with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

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

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

Minimizing meat consumption would also assist ease the strain on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the vast majority of that land.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a miracle”. The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment model”, which strives for a balance in 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 stimulate innovation to “produce a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information programme, which would allow services and the government to evaluate their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, shows how much land is used abroad 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 reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

” Globally, the most significant potential carbon advantage of eating less meat would not really be the decrease in emissions, however the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.