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

In this Q&A, Carbon Brief explains and analyzes the report how its suggestions align– or do not align– with the UKs environment targets and decarbonisation objectives.

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

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

The first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, supplied suggestions for the federal government to address food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly released 2nd part has actually the mentioned goal of supplying a “thorough plan for transforming the food system”..

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

Recently, part two of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was published, supplying a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– an all-inclusive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and consumption of food– in England..

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

Its objective was to offer a roadmap for transforming the food system from its existing state to one that is healthier for the planet and the population..

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

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

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

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

The scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the home countries “food systems are so securely linked as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “might in turn find some useful concepts” in the strategy.

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 worldwide food system is the single most significant factor to biodiversity loss, logging, drought, freshwater pollution and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment change, after the energy market.”.

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

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

” Theres rather a great deal of siloed thinking about the food system. So, from the viewpoint of integrated nationwide policymaking that delivers, its wonderful.”.

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

Trying to produce a healthier population while farming in a less destructive method requires cooperation across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, including rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have actually caused a third of total international warming considering that the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

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

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

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

Other significant factors to the emissions consist of food, fertiliser and transportation manufacturing and packaging..

The food system has seen significantly smaller decreases 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 since 2008, however food-related emissions have decreased by only 13% over the exact same time..

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

What parts of the food strategy could make the greatest effect on climate modification?

Much of the recommendations made in the report relate in some method to climate modification or environmental sustainability. These suggestions consist of:.

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms actually resolve the climate obstacle … I think the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the viewpoint of what the land sector requires to do to achieve the UK nationwide targets? I do not know. Its certainly a step in the right direction, but theres most likely an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment model”, which strives 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 stimulate innovation to “produce a better food system”. Presenting obligatory reporting on a range of metrics for food business using more than 250 individuals. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would permit companies and the federal government to assess their progress on the objectives laid out in the report.

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

What are the restrictions of the food method in addressing environment change?

” Another thing that appears to be missing 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 fruition by which time the world might have altered.”.

The recommendation towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as a key location in need of research study financing. Nevertheless, Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is currently really well-developed. He tells Carbon Brief:.

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

” There are already a lot of meat substitutes on the market and even more so when you consider natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more plainly that healthy and sustainable diet does not necessarily require to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been very important, but that was missed out on there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

Gill likewise notes that the report, while comprehensive, does not totally think about the unintentional repercussions of its suggestions. A much higher percentage of fresh fruits and veggies is wasted than meat. So the suggestions to consume less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

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

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 options, Springmann states.

The food system “is extremely complex”, Gill states, “however I do not think thats any excuse for not in fact highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly need to resolve all sort of problems. And if you desire to attend to effectively the environmental issues, plus the health issues, you actually have to address the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

How does the food technique address the contending interests of agricultural land use and land use for carbon sequestration?

” The type of land that could provide the best environmental benefits is frequently not extremely 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%.”.

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

Developing the strategy will involve collecting information on agricultural productivity, priority nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted locations. It will also develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched earlier this year– in order to identify the land best suited for nature remediation..

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a catastrophe”. The proposed structure uses the “three compartment design”, which strives for a balance in 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 sized centres to stimulate innovation to “produce a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would allow organizations and the federal government to assess their progress on the goals 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 suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity expense”, implying the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, shows 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 larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

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

” Implementation of any of those recommendations really needs political will … The recommendations themselves might have been more progressive, however even the ones that exist dont appear to resonate very much with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

In order to resolve these competing interests, the report requires a national land-use method to best designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

The federal government has devoted to producing an action to the strategy, consisting of proposals for brand-new legislation, within the next six months..

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

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

Reducing meat intake would likewise assist relieve the pressure 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 majority of that land.

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of numerous foodstuff. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Nature-based services, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant function 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 how much abroad land is used to produce food for the UK (right).