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

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

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

The first part of the technique, published in July 2020, offered suggestions for the government to attend to food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly released second part has the stated objective of offering a “comprehensive plan for transforming the food system”..

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

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a miracle”. While the present food system can feeding the “greatest worldwide population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high environmental cost. The report notes:.

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

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

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

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

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

” [The report] brings everyone around the table for a dialogue about what type of system do we have, what sort of system do we wish to bring, what are the trade-offs and could governments do things differently.”.

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

” The global 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 contributor to climate change, after the energy market.”.

However, the NFS has actually definitely brought these issues to the forefront, Edward Davey, the international engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief. He discusses:.

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

Why is the food method crucial for taking on environment change?

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

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

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

” Theres rather a lot of siloed thinking about the food system. From the point of view of integrated nationwide policymaking that provides, its wonderful.”.

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

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

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

Trying to create a healthier population while farming in a less damaging method requires collaboration across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

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

Research study recommends that the food system is accountable for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the 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 various boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

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

The proposed framework uses the “three compartment design”, which aims for 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 “produce a better food system”. Introducing compulsory reporting on a range of metrics for food companies employing more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would allow organizations and the government to examine their development on the objectives laid out in the report.

A number of the recommendations made in the report relate in some method to climate modification or ecological sustainability. These recommendations include:.

What are the limitations of the food strategy in addressing environment change?

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

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

” Another thing that seems to be missing out on is that foresighting, wheres the world going to from other sectors … Theres going to be an improvement in farming … And its going to take years [for the recommendations in the report] to come to fruition by which time the world may have changed.”.

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

” There are already plenty of meat substitutes on the marketplace and a lot more so when you consider natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more plainly that healthy and sustainable diet plan doesnt always require to consist of processed meat options would have been very important, but that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

The food system “is really intricate”, Gill says, “but I do not think thats any reason for not in fact highlighting a few of those concerns right at the start”.

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

For instance, the suggestion towards purchasing innovation lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in need of research study funding. However, Springmann says, the alternative-protein market is currently really well-developed. He tells Carbon Brief:.

Gill also notes that the report, while extensive, does not completely consider the unintended effects of its recommendations. A much greater proportion of fresh fruits and veggies is lost than meat. So the recommendations to consume less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

How does the food method address the contending interests of farming land usage and land usage for carbon sequestration?

” The type of land that might deliver the greatest environmental advantages 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%.”.

Establishing the technique will include collecting data on agricultural performance, concern nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted locations. It will also build on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched previously this year– in order to recognize the land finest matched for nature remediation..

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a miracle”. The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment model”, 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 sized centres to stimulate development to “create a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information program, which would permit services and the government to examine their progress on the objectives 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 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 might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

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

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

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform a feat of acrobatics” in supplying enough land to produce the necessary food, however likewise to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

Minimizing meat intake would also help reduce the pressure on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the large bulk of that land.

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major role in many countries and business net-zero targets, however numerous of these require the repurposing of agricultural land.

” Implementation of any of those suggestions truly requires political will … The suggestions themselves could have been more progressive, but even the ones that are there do not appear to resonate very much with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

The chart below shows that when the carbon sequestration “chance cost” (yellow bars) is added to the emissions of various food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat in fact surpasses that of beef, due to the large amounts of land needed to graze those animals and their cravings for tree saplings.

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

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

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

” Globally, the greatest prospective carbon benefit of eating less meat would not actually be the decrease in emissions, however the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

Total carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kilogram of different food items. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity expense”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The government has devoted to producing a reaction to the strategy, including proposals for new legislation, within the next six months..

In order to attend to these contending interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use method to best designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

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