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

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

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

The first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, provided recommendations for the government to resolve food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published 2nd part has the stated goal of supplying a “thorough plan for transforming the food system”..

Last week, part two of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was released, offering a broad summary of the state of the “food system”– an all-encompassing term that covers the production, processing, transportation and consumption of food– in England..

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

The NFS has definitely brought these issues to the forefront, Edward Davey, the worldwide engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief. He explains:.

” The global food system is the single most significant contributor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, dry spell, freshwater pollution and the collapse of marine wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to climate change, after the energy market.”.

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

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

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

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house countries “food systems are so tightly linked as to remain in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn discover some beneficial concepts” in the strategy.

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

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

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

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

Trying to develop a much healthier population while farming in a less harmful method needs cooperation across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

Under its commitments to the Paris Agreement, the UK has promised to minimize emissions from 1990 levels by 68% by 2030. The federal government has likewise set a legally binding target to accomplish net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Springmann says:.

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 agriculture have been negligible– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

Other significant factors to the emissions consist of transport, fertiliser and food production and product packaging..

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

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

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

” Without attending to the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to fulfill those climate modification responsibilities [laid out by law] and to add to mitigating environment change.”.

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, including rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have triggered a 3rd of overall worldwide warming given that the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

” Theres rather a lot of siloed believing about the food system. So, from the perspective of integrated nationwide policymaking that delivers, its great.”.

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

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

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms truly resolve the environment difficulty … I think 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?

Ensuring funding for farming payments up until at least 2029 at the present level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the transition to sustainable farming. The report also specifies that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this ought to be “ring-fenced” for plans that encourage habitat repair and carbon sequestration, such as peatland remediation. Developing a “rural land use framework” that will recommend on the very best way that any provided piece of land should be utilized– whether for nature, bioenergy, something or agriculture else. The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment design”, 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), as well as smaller sized centres to stimulate innovation to “develop a much better food system”. The funds would be intended at innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few locations. Reducing meat consumption by 30% over the next years. The report stops brief of advising a tax on meat to accomplish this aim (as it recommends for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Instead, it states, the federal government needs to intend for “nudging consumers into changing their habits”. Introducing mandatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food business using more than 250 individuals. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information program, which would permit services and the federal government to examine their progress on the goals set out in the report. The programme would consist of both the land-use data and the compulsory reporting information described above. Bringing these two types of data together, the report composes, will help “create a clear, available and evolving picture of the effect our diet has on nature, climate and public health”.

Much of the suggestions made in the report relate in some way to climate change or environmental sustainability. These recommendations consist of:.

What are the limitations of the food method in dealing with climate modification?

” 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 recommendations in the report] to come to fruition by which time the world might have altered.”.

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

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

Gill also notes that the report, while comprehensive, does not totally think about the unintended repercussions of its recommendations. A much greater proportion of fresh fruits and veggies is lost than meat. The suggestions to eat less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

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

” There are currently lots of meat replaces on the market and much more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet plan doesnt always require to include processed meat options would have been necessary, however that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

The suggestions “appear to be practically sort of looking backwards rather than looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, informs Carbon Brief. She includes:.

For example, the suggestion towards purchasing innovation lists alternative proteins as a key area in requirement of research study funding. Springmann says, the alternative-protein market is currently really strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

The food system “is extremely intricate”, Gill says, “however I dont believe thats any excuse for not in fact highlighting some of those concerns right at the start”.

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

Nature-based options, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major function in lots of nations and business net-zero targets, however numerous of these need the repurposing of farming land.

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

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

Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of various food. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance expense”, implying the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Lowering meat consumption would likewise help reduce the strain on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the huge majority of that land.

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

However, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has currently suggested his hesitancy to support a few of the policy suggestions laid out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, cautions Springmann:.

UK acreage divided up by purpose. About 70% is devoted to farming, generally animals and animals feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the same scale, demonstrates how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land usage takes location overseas. The combined land area for rearing beef and lamb for UK consumption is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Establishing the strategy will include collecting data on agricultural efficiency, top priority nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted areas. It will likewise construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– released earlier this year– in order to identify the land finest matched for nature repair..

As a result, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out a task of balancings” in supplying sufficient land to produce the required food, however also to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

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

In order to attend to these competing interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use strategy to best designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

The report keeps in mind that with the ideal incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique could be equally advantageous towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a miracle”. The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment model”, which strives 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 “create a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would enable companies and the federal government to assess their development on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, reveals how much land is utilized abroad to produce food for the UK. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance expense”, suggesting the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

The federal government has committed to producing a response to the strategy, consisting of proposals for new legislation, within the next six months..

” Implementation of any of those recommendations truly requires political will … The recommendations themselves might 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.”.