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

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

Recently, sequel 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, transport and usage of food– in England..

The federal government has devoted to producing a white paper and propositions 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 a number of the NFS proposals, according to the Guardian.

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, sets out 14 suggestions for the UK government to consider, including financial rewards, reporting and trade standards and targets for long-lasting change in the food system..

In this Q&A, Carbon Brief explains and examines the report how its recommendations align– or do not line up– with the UKs environment targets and decarbonisation goals.

The very first part of the technique, released in July 2020, supplied recommendations for the government to address food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly released 2nd part has actually the stated objective of offering a “extensive plan for changing the food system”..

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

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

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

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

Davey includes that, in his view, “every nation in the world would gain from doing something of this kind”.

” The international food system is the single biggest contributor to biodiversity loss, logging, drought, freshwater pollution and the collapse of aquatic wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to climate change, after the energy market.”.

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

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

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

Why is the food technique important for taking on environment modification?

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

Attempting to develop a healthier population while farming in a less harmful way requires partnership across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

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

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

Research study suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about the 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 different studies draw various limits around what counts as the food sector.).

Other major contributors to the emissions consist of fertiliser, transport and food production and product packaging..

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

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a portion of the 2008 emissions in that sector. By 2018, emissions had minimized by 13%, however none of this modification was due to enhancements in agriculture. Total emissions decreased by 32% over that exact same time period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are due to farming, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have triggered a 3rd of overall worldwide warming since the industrial transformation”, the report notes.

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

Davey calls the suggestions a “great starting point”. However, he includes:.

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

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 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 spur development to “produce a much better food system”. Introducing mandatory 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 national food system information programme, which would enable services and the federal government to examine their development on the objectives laid out in the report.

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms truly attend to the climate challenge … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector requires to do to achieve the UK national targets?

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

” Another thing that seems to be missing is that foresighting, wheres the world going to from other sectors … Theres going to be an improvement 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.”.

The report also “actually shied” far from taking a strong position on reducing meat consumption, Springmann states, with impacts on both the environment and public health. He states:.

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

The suggestion towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as a key location in need of research funding. Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is currently very well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

The food system “is really complicated”, Gill states, “however I dont believe thats any excuse for not in fact highlighting a few of those issues right at the start”.

Gill also notes that the report, while comprehensive, does not totally think about the unexpected consequences of its suggestions. For instance, a much higher percentage of fresh vegetables and fruits is wasted than meat. So the recommendations to eat less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

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

” There are already plenty of meat replaces on the marketplace and much more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more plainly that sustainable and healthy diet plan doesnt necessarily require to include processed meat options would have been necessary, however that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The commissioning of the report– it was led by entrepreneur and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– means the report itself “reveals a little bit of a skewed focus” towards business-focused options, Springmann says.

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

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

Establishing the strategy will include gathering data on agricultural efficiency, priority nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated locations. It will likewise develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched previously this year– in order to determine the land finest matched for nature restoration..

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a disaster”. The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment model”, which strives for a balance 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 stimulate development to “develop a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would allow companies and the government to examine 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 suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance expense”, implying the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major role in lots of nations and companies net-zero targets, however much of these require the repurposing of agricultural land.

UK land area divided up by function. About 70% is devoted to farming, primarily livestock and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very same scale, demonstrates how much land is utilized abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the total 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.

” The kind of land that might provide the biggest environmental advantages is typically not really agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

Minimizing meat usage would likewise help relieve the stress on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the large bulk of that land.

” Globally, the most significant possible 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.”.

As a result, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform an accomplishment of balancings” in supplying enough land to produce the essential food, however likewise to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

The chart below shows how all land in the UK is assigned (left) and just how much overseas land is used to produce food for the UK (right).

In order to resolve these completing interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use strategy to best designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

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

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

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

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The report keeps in mind that with the ideal incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique could be mutually beneficial towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

The chart listed below shows that when the carbon sequestration “chance cost” (yellow bars) is contributed to the emissions of various food groups (teal bars), the carbon expense of lamb and goat meat in fact goes beyond that of beef, due to the large amounts of land needed to graze those animals and their hunger for tree saplings.

” Implementation of any of those suggestions actually needs political will … The suggestions themselves could have been more progressive, however even the ones that are there dont appear to resonate really much with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

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The government has committed to producing a reaction to the method, including proposals for new legislation, within the next six months..