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

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

Recently, part two of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was published, offering a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transport and intake of food– in England..

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

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

The first part of the technique, published in July 2020, provided suggestions for the federal government to deal with food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published second part has the specified objective of providing a “detailed prepare for changing the food system”..

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the house nations “food systems are so securely interwoven as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “might in turn discover some helpful ideas” in the technique.

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

However, the NFS has definitely brought these concerns to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the worldwide engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief. He discusses:.

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

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

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

” The international food system is the single greatest factor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, drought, freshwater contamination and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to climate change, after the energy market.”.

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. While the current food system is capable of feeding the “greatest worldwide population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high ecological expense. The report notes:.

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

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

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

Trying to create a much healthier population while farming in a less destructive method needs cooperation across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

” Without dealing with the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to fulfill those environment change responsibilities [laid out by law] and to add to mitigating climate 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 international warming given that the commercial transformation”, the report notes.

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

Furthermore, essentially 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 been minimal– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

” Theres rather a lot of siloed thinking of the food system. From the point of view of integrated national policymaking that delivers, its fantastic.”.

The food system has actually seen substantially smaller sized 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 since 2008, however food-related emissions have actually reduced by only 13% over the exact same time..

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

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

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 scientist at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, informs Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, but various studies draw various borders around what counts as the food sector.).

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

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms really resolve the climate obstacle … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the viewpoint of what the land sector needs to do to achieve the UK nationwide targets? I do not know. Its certainly a step in the ideal direction, however theres probably an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

Guaranteeing funding for agricultural payments up until a minimum of 2029 at the present level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to aid in the transition to sustainable farming. The report likewise states that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this must be “ring-fenced” for schemes that motivate habitat restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland repair. Developing a “rural land use structure” that will advise on the very best manner in which any offered piece of land should be used– whether for nature, agriculture, something or bioenergy else. The proposed structure utilizes the “3 compartment design”, 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), as well as smaller centres to stimulate innovation to “create a better food system”. The funds would be aimed at innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, amongst other locations. Lowering meat intake by 30% over the next years. The report stops brief of advising a tax on meat to accomplish this objective (as it recommends for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Rather, it specifies, the federal government needs to go for “nudging customers into altering their practices”. Presenting mandatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies utilizing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information program, which would allow services and the federal government to evaluate their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The programme would consist of both the land-use information and the mandatory reporting information described above. Bringing these two kinds of data together, the report writes, will help “produce a clear, available and evolving image of the effect our diet has on nature, environment and public health”.

Numerous of the recommendations made in the report relate in some way to environment modification or environmental sustainability. These recommendations consist of:.

Davey calls the recommendations a “excellent starting point”. He adds:.

What are the limitations of the food strategy in resolving climate change?

The recommendation towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as an essential area in need of research funding. Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is already extremely strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

Gill likewise notes that the report, while comprehensive, does not totally consider the unintended consequences of its recommendations. For example, a much higher percentage of fresh fruits and veggies is wasted than meat. So the suggestions to consume less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

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

The suggestions “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 adds:.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly require to deal with all sort of problems. And if you desire to resolve effectively the environmental concerns, plus the health issues, you truly have to deal with the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nevertheless, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually currently indicated 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:.

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

The chart listed below programs that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity expense” (yellow bars) is included to the emissions of numerous food groups (teal bars), the carbon expense of lamb and goat meat really exceeds that of beef, due to the large amounts of land required to graze those animals and their cravings for tree saplings.

” Globally, the greatest possible carbon advantage of consuming less meat would not actually be the decrease in emissions, however the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

As a result, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out an accomplishment of balancings” in providing adequate land to produce the essential food, however likewise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Developing the technique will include gathering information on agricultural performance, top priority nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated locations. It will also construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched previously this year– in order to determine the land best suited for nature restoration..

Decreasing meat usage would also help minimize the pressure on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the large bulk of that land.

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

Total carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kilogram of various food items. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance expense”, meaning the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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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 total land use happens overseas. The combined land location for raising beef and lamb for UK consumption is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

” Implementation of any of those recommendations truly needs political will … The suggestions themselves might have been more progressive, however even the ones that are there dont seem to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

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

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

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

Nature-based options, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant function in many countries and business net-zero targets, however much of these require the repurposing of agricultural land.

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment model”, which makes every effort 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 centres to stimulate development to “develop a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data programme, which would allow businesses and the federal government to assess their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, reveals how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. The teal bars show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance expense”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

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The report notes that with the ideal incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the method could be equally helpful towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.