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

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

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

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

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

The first part of the method, published in July 2020, provided suggestions for the federal government to address food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published second part has the specified objective of supplying a “comprehensive strategy for transforming the food system”..

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

” [The report] brings everyone around the table for a discussion about what type of system do we have, what kind of system do we wish to bring, what are the compromises and might federal governments do things in a different way.”.

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home nations “food systems are so securely linked as to remain in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “may in turn find some helpful ideas” in the technique.

Nevertheless, the NFS has actually certainly brought these problems to the forefront, Edward Davey, the international engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief. He explains:.

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a disaster”. While the current 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.

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

” The global food system is the single biggest factor to biodiversity loss, logging, drought, freshwater pollution and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to environment modification, after the energy market.”.

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

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

Its goal was to provide a roadmap for changing the food system from its present state to one that is healthier for the population and the world..

Why is the food technique essential for dealing with climate modification?

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

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 modification was due to improvements in farming. Total emissions reduced by 32% over that exact same time period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

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

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

Attempting to develop a much healthier population while farming in a less destructive method needs partnership across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

” Theres rather a lot of siloed considering the food system. So, from the point of view of integrated national policymaking that provides, its fantastic.”.

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

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

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

What parts of the food method could make the greatest impact on climate change?

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms truly address the environment obstacle … I believe 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 know. Its certainly an action in the ideal instructions, however theres probably an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

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

Guaranteeing funding for agricultural payments until at least 2029 at the current level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to aid in the shift to sustainable farming. The report also states that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this must be “ring-fenced” for schemes that encourage environment restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland restoration. Creating a “rural land usage structure” that will advise on the very best manner in which any provided piece of land should be used– whether for nature, bioenergy, something or agriculture else. The proposed framework uses the “three compartment model”, which pursues a balance in 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), along with smaller sized centres to stimulate innovation to “produce a better food system”. The funds would be intended at innovating fruit and veggie production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, among other areas. Minimizing meat intake by 30% over the next years. The report stops brief of recommending a tax on meat to accomplish this goal (as it suggests for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Instead, it states, the federal government should go for “nudging customers into altering their habits”. Presenting obligatory reporting on a range of metrics for food business utilizing 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 businesses and the federal government to examine their development on the goals set out in the report. The programme would consist of both the land-use information and the obligatory reporting data explained above. Bringing these two kinds of data together, the report composes, will assist “create a clear, available and evolving image of the effect our diet plan has on nature, environment and public health”.

Many of the suggestions made in the report relate in some method to climate change or environmental sustainability. These suggestions include:.

What are the restrictions of the food method in attending to climate change?

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

The food system “is very complex”, Gill says, “but I do not think thats any excuse for not in fact highlighting a few of those issues right at the start”.

” Another thing that appears 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 recommendations in the report] to come to fulfillment by which time the world may have altered.”.

For instance, the recommendation towards buying development lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in need of research funding. However, Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is currently really strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

” There are currently lots of meat substitutes on the market and even more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more plainly that sustainable and healthy diet does not necessarily require to consist of processed meat options would have been necessary, however that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

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

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

Gill likewise notes that the report, while extensive, does not totally consider the unintentional repercussions of its recommendations. For example, a much higher proportion of fresh vegetables and fruits is lost than meat. So the recommendations to eat less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you actually need to resolve all type of issues. And if you wish to deal with correctly the ecological concerns, plus the health issues, you really need to address the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

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

” Implementation of any of those recommendations actually requires political will … The suggestions themselves might have been more progressive, however even the ones that exist dont seem to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

Nature-based services, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant role in numerous nations and business net-zero targets, however much of these require the repurposing of farming land.

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually estimated that just 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:.

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

The government has actually committed to producing an action to the strategy, consisting of propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next six months..

As a result, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform a feat of balancings” in providing enough land to produce the required food, however also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

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

Sharelines from this story.

The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the same scale, reveals how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. The combined land location for rearing beef and lamb for UK intake is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

” The sort of land that might deliver the biggest ecological benefits is frequently not really agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

” Globally, the greatest possible carbon advantage of consuming less meat would not really be the reduction in emissions, but the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a disaster”. The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment design”, which makes every effort 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 development to “create a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would permit businesses and the federal government to assess their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the very same scale, reveals 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 expense”, implying the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

Decreasing meat usage would likewise assist reduce the strain on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the large majority of that land.

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

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually currently 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:.

The report keeps in mind that with the right incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy might be equally beneficial towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

Establishing the method will include collecting information on agricultural productivity, top priority nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted locations. It will likewise construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched previously this year– in order to recognize the land finest suited for nature remediation..