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

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

The first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, offered recommendations for the federal government to attend to food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published 2nd part has actually the mentioned goal of providing a “comprehensive strategy for changing the food system”..

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

Last week, part two of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was published, 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 report, which is more than 150 pages long, lays out 14 suggestions for the UK government to consider, including monetary incentives, reporting and trade requirements and targets for long-term modification in the food system..

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

Some have actually criticised the suggestion to tax wholesale sugar and salt as unfair 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 reaction to last weeks release saw members of parliament, celeb chefs and even rockstars weighing in on its significance.

Nevertheless, the NFS has actually certainly brought these issues to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the worldwide engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief. He discusses:.

” The global food system is the single most significant contributor to biodiversity loss, logging, dry spell, freshwater contamination and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment modification, after the energy industry.”.

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the home nations “food systems are so tightly linked regarding remain in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “may in turn find some helpful ideas” in the strategy.

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

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

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

” [The report] brings everybody around the table for a discussion about what sort of system do we have, what sort of system do we wish to bring, what are the trade-offs and might federal governments do things in a different way.”.

Why is the food method important for dealing with environment modification?

Attempting to develop a much healthier population while farming in a less destructive way requires collaboration throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

Additionally, practically all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been because of cleaner energy and increased effectiveness in the energy sector. Modifications due to agriculture have actually been minimal– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

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

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

Research suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of international greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the exact 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%, but different research studies draw various borders around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

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

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, including rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have actually caused a 3rd of total worldwide warming considering that the industrial transformation”, the report notes.

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

What parts of the food technique could make the biggest effect on environment modification?

Many of the recommendations made in the report relate in some method to environment modification or ecological sustainability. These suggestions consist of:.

The proposed structure utilizes 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 centres to spur innovation to “create a much better food system”. Introducing mandatory reporting on a range of metrics for food business using more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would allow services and the federal government to evaluate their progress on the objectives laid out in the report.

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms really deal with the environment difficulty … I think the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the viewpoint of what the land sector needs to do to achieve the UK national targets? I dont know. Its definitely a step in the best instructions, however theres most likely an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

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

What are the constraints of the food technique in attending to environment modification?

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

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

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

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

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

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while thorough, does not completely think about the unexpected repercussions of its recommendations. For example, a much higher percentage of fresh vegetables and fruits is lost than meat. The recommendations to consume less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

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

The report also “actually shied” far from taking a strong position on reducing meat consumption, Springmann says, with impacts 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.

” There are already a lot of meat substitutes on the marketplace and even more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet doesnt always need to include processed meat options would have been important, but that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

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

” The kind of land that could provide the best environmental advantages is frequently 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 report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a disaster”. The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment design”, which makes every effort for a balance 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 spur innovation to “create a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information programme, which would permit services and the federal government to evaluate 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 used abroad to produce food for the UK. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity cost”, implying the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

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

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

The federal government has actually committed to producing a response to the technique, including proposals for brand-new legislation, within the next six months..

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

Nature-based services, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major function in numerous countries and business net-zero targets, but a number of these require the repurposing of farming land.

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:.

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

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

Establishing the method will involve gathering data on farming efficiency, concern nature locations for conservation (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 determine the land best suited for nature remediation..

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

The report notes that with the best rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique could be mutually helpful towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

Lowering meat consumption would likewise assist alleviate the stress 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 using up the huge bulk of that land.

” Implementation of any of those recommendations truly needs political will … The suggestions 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.”.

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