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 think about, consisting of monetary incentives, reporting and trade requirements and targets for long-term modification in the food system..

Last week, sequel of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was published, providing a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– an all-inclusive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and intake of food– in England..

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

The federal 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 many of the NFS propositions, according to the Guardian.

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

The very first part of the method, released in July 2020, supplied suggestions for the federal government to resolve food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly released second part has actually the mentioned goal of providing a “detailed plan for changing the food system”..

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

The NFS has definitely brought these problems to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the worldwide engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief.

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

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

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

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 all of us healthier. I hope that these strategies will be used up by this federal government. https://t.co/gl5rZJCrhO— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) July 15, 2021.

The scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house countries “food systems are so firmly linked as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn find some helpful ideas” in the strategy.

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

The NFS was commissioned by the UK federal government in 2019 as the first independent review of the federal 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 impacting lower-income households. Others say that the steps laid out in the report do not go far sufficient towards making the food system more sustainable.

Why is the food method important for tackling environment modification?

Other significant contributors to the emissions include fertiliser, transportation and food manufacturing and packaging..

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

The food system has actually 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 reduced by nearly one-third given that 2008, but food-related emissions have actually decreased by only 13% over the very same time..

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

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

Trying to produce a healthier population while farming in a less destructive method needs partnership throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

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

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have caused a 3rd of total worldwide warming because the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

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

Research study recommends that the food system is accountable for about one-third of international greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with 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%, however different studies draw different limits around what counts as the food sector.).

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

A lot of the recommendations made in the report relate in some method to climate change or environmental sustainability. These recommendations include:.

The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment model”, which aims for 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), as well as smaller sized centres to spur development to “develop a much better food system”. Presenting necessary reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies utilizing more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would enable services and the government to assess their progress on the objectives laid out in the report.

Davey calls the recommendations a “excellent starting point”. Nevertheless, he includes:.

” The question is how quickly will those reforms actually deal with the climate difficulty … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the viewpoint of what the land sector needs to do to attain the UK nationwide targets? I dont know. Its certainly an action in the right direction, however theres most likely an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

What are the restrictions of the food strategy in addressing climate modification?

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

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

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

” Another thing that seems to be missing 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 fulfillment by which time the world might have changed.”.

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

” There are already lots 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 plainly that sustainable and healthy diet plan does not necessarily require to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been important, however that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

Gill also notes that the report, while comprehensive, does not completely think about the unintentional repercussions of its suggestions. A much greater percentage of fresh fruits and veggies is lost than meat. So the recommendations to eat less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

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

For example, the suggestion towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as an essential area in requirement of research study funding. However, Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is already extremely well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you really require to resolve all kinds of issues. And if you want to address effectively the ecological issues, plus the health concerns, you really have to resolve the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment model”, which makes every effort for 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), as well as smaller centres to spur innovation to “produce a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would enable businesses and the federal government to examine their development on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very same scale, reveals 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 product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, meaning the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

” Globally, the most significant prospective carbon benefit of consuming less meat would not in fact be the decrease in emissions, but the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

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, warns Springmann:.

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The chart listed below shows that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity cost” (yellow bars) is included to the emissions of various food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat really goes beyond that of beef, due to the big quantities of land required to graze those animals and their cravings for tree saplings.

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

Nature-based options, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are expected to play a significant function in numerous countries and business net-zero targets, but a number of these need the repurposing of agricultural land.

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

” The kind of land that could provide the best ecological benefits is typically not very agriculturally productive. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

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

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform a task of acrobatics” in offering sufficient land to produce the needed food, but also to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

The report notes that with the right rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy might be mutually advantageous towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually estimated that just over 20% of agricultural 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:.

In order to address these competing interests, the report requires a national land-use technique to best allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

Developing the method will involve collecting data on farming performance, priority nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted locations. It will also develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– released previously this year– in order to determine the land best matched for nature repair..

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The government has actually dedicated to producing an action to the technique, including propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next six months..

Decreasing meat intake would likewise help reduce the strain on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the vast bulk of that land.

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