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

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

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

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

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

Last week, part 2 of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was released, providing a broad summary of the state of the “food system”– an all-inclusive term that covers the production, processing, transport and consumption of food– in England..

The very first part of the strategy, released in July 2020, provided recommendations for the federal government to attend to food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly released 2nd part has actually the specified objective of providing a “extensive prepare for changing the food system”..

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some have criticised the suggestion to tax wholesale sugar and salt as unjust or as disproportionately impacting lower-income households. Others state that the steps laid out in the report do not go far adequate towards making the food system more sustainable.

” The global food system is the single greatest factor 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.”.

The scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home countries “food systems are so tightly linked as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn find some helpful concepts” in the technique.

Why is the food strategy essential for taking on climate change?

Moreover, essentially all of the gains made in the food sector have been because of cleaner energy and increased effectiveness in the energy sector. Modifications due to farming have been minimal– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

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

Other significant contributors to the emissions consist of transport, food and fertiliser manufacturing and product packaging..

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

Trying to develop a much healthier population while farming in a less destructive method requires partnership throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

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

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

Research 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 researcher at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, tells Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, however various research studies draw various limits around what counts as the food sector.).

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage of the 2008 emissions because sector. By 2018, emissions had actually minimized by 13%, but none of this change was because of improvements in agriculture. General emissions reduced by 32% over that exact same period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, including rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have actually triggered a third of overall global warming because the commercial transformation”, the report notes.

What parts of the food strategy could make the biggest impact on climate modification?

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

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms truly deal with the climate difficulty … I think the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector requires to do to achieve the UK nationwide targets? I dont know. Its definitely an action in the ideal direction, however theres probably an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

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

Ensuring funding for farming payments until at least 2029 at the existing level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to aid in the shift to sustainable farming. The report also specifies that at least ₤ 500m of this should be “ring-fenced” for plans that motivate environment repair and carbon sequestration, such as peatland restoration. Developing a “rural land usage framework” that will encourage on the very best method that any provided piece of land must be used– whether for nature, bioenergy, something or agriculture else. The proposed framework uses the “three compartment model”, which pursues a balance 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), along with smaller centres to spur development to “develop a better food system”. The funds would be targeted at innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few areas. Reducing meat usage by 30% over the next years. The report stops short of advising a tax on meat to attain this goal (as it suggests for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Instead, it states, the federal government must go for “nudging consumers into changing their practices”. Introducing necessary reporting on a range of metrics for food companies employing more than 250 people. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would enable companies and the government to assess their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The program would include both the land-use data and the necessary reporting data explained above. Bringing these 2 types of information together, the report composes, will assist “create a clear, accessible and developing photo of the effect our diet plan has on nature, climate and public health”.

What are the restrictions of the food strategy in dealing with climate change?

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

” 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 suggestions in the report] to come to fulfillment by which time the world may have changed.”.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you actually need to address all type of problems. And if you want to address properly the environmental issues, plus the health concerns, you truly need to deal with the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

For instance, the suggestion towards purchasing innovation lists alternative proteins as an essential location in need of research study funding. However, Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is currently really strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

” There are currently lots of meat replaces on the marketplace and a lot more so when you consider natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet plan doesnt always require to include processed meat alternatives would have been very important, but that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The food system “is really intricate”, Gill states, “however I dont think thats any reason for not really highlighting some of those concerns right at the start”.

The suggestions “appear to be almost sort of looking backwards rather than looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen and chair of the Scottish Science Advisory Council, informs Carbon Brief. She includes:.

Gill likewise notes that the report, while comprehensive, does not fully consider the unintended consequences of its suggestions. For example, a much higher proportion of fresh vegetables and fruits is wasted than meat. The suggestions to eat less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

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

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

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

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

The report keeps in mind that with the ideal rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy might be mutually useful towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

” Implementation of any of those recommendations actually requires political will … The recommendations themselves could have been more progressive, however even the ones that exist do not appear to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

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The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a disaster”. The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment design”, which makes every effort for a balance 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 development to “produce a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would permit services and the government to assess 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 used overseas 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 might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

Sharelines from this story.

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

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

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

Nature-based options, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major role in lots of countries and business net-zero targets, however much of these require the repurposing of agricultural land.

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 (best).

Developing the technique will include gathering data on farming performance, top priority nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted locations. It will also develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched earlier this year– in order to recognize the land best matched for nature remediation..

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of different food products. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance expense”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

UK land area divided up by purpose. About 70% is committed to farming, primarily livestock and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, demonstrates how much land is used overseas to produce food for the UK. About half of the overall land usage happens overseas. The combined land area for raising beef and lamb for UK consumption is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out a task of balancings” in offering adequate land to produce the required food, however also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

In order to address these competing interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use strategy to finest assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

Decreasing meat intake would also help minimize 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 vast majority of that land.

However, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has already indicated his hesitancy to support a few of the policy recommendations set out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, warns Springmann:.

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