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

Recently, sequel of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was released, offering a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and consumption of food– in England..

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

The first part of the strategy, released in July 2020, offered recommendations for the federal government to resolve food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly released 2nd part has the specified goal of offering a “extensive prepare for changing the food system”..

The federal government has actually committed 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 much of the NFS proposals, according to the Guardian.

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

” The global food system is the single greatest contributor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, drought, freshwater contamination and the collapse of aquatic wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to environment modification, after the energy industry.”.

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

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house countries “food systems are so tightly linked regarding be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “might in turn find some useful concepts” in the method.

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

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

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

The NFS has certainly brought these issues to the forefront, Edward Davey, the international engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief.

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

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

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

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

Research study 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, tells Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, but different studies draw different limits around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a portion of the 2008 emissions in that sector. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Trying to create a much healthier population while farming in a less harmful way requires cooperation throughout disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He says:.

The food system has seen considerably 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 because 2008, but food-related emissions have actually reduced by only 13% over the very same time..

Practically all of the gains made in the food sector have been due to cleaner energy and increased performance in the energy sector. Changes due to farming have been negligible– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

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

Almost half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, including rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have caused a 3rd of overall international warming given that the industrial transformation”, the report notes.

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

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

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

Ensuring funding for farming 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 also states that at least ₤ 500m of this must be “ring-fenced” for plans that motivate habitat restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland restoration. Producing a “rural land usage framework” that will advise on the best method that any given piece of land ought to be used– whether for nature, agriculture, bioenergy or something else. The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment design”, which strives for a balance in 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), along with smaller sized centres to spur development to “produce a much better food system”. The funds would be targeted at innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, amongst other areas. Minimizing meat usage by 30% over the next years. The report stops short of suggesting a tax on meat to achieve this objective (as it suggests for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Instead, it states, the federal government must go for “nudging consumers into altering their habits”. Introducing compulsory reporting on a range of metrics for food business utilizing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would permit businesses and the government to assess their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The program would consist of both the land-use information and the compulsory reporting information explained above. Bringing these 2 kinds of data together, the report writes, will help “develop a clear, available and progressing picture of the impact our diet plan has on nature, climate and public health”.

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms actually deal with the environment obstacle … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the perspective of what the land sector needs to do to achieve the UK nationwide targets? I do not understand. Its certainly a step in the right instructions, but theres probably an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

What are the constraints of the food method in resolving climate change?

Gill also notes that the report, while comprehensive, does not totally consider the unintentional repercussions of its recommendations. For instance, a much greater proportion of fresh fruits and veggies is lost than meat. So the recommendations to eat less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

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

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

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

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you really require to attend to all type of issues. And if you want to address properly the ecological issues, plus the health issues, you really need to attend to the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

” Another thing that appears to be missing 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 recommendations in the report] to come to fruition by which time the world might have changed.”.

The food system “is really complex”, Gill states, “but I do not think thats any reason for not actually highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

The recommendation towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in need of research study funding. Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is currently very strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

” There are currently lots of meat replaces on the market and a lot more so when you consider natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more plainly that healthy and sustainable diet does not necessarily require to include processed meat options would have been essential, however that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

Minimizing meat consumption would also help reduce the pressure on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the huge bulk of that land.

” The type of land that could provide the greatest environmental benefits is often not very agriculturally productive. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

The government has actually dedicated to producing a reaction to the technique, consisting of propositions for new legislation, within the next six months..

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

In order to address these completing interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use strategy to best allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a miracle”. The proposed framework utilizes the “3 compartment design”, which strives 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 sized centres to spur development to “develop a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information programme, which would allow businesses and the federal government to examine their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, shows how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance cost”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant function in many nations and companies net-zero targets, but many of these need the repurposing of agricultural land.

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

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The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, shows how much land is used overseas to produce food for the UK. The combined land area for raising beef and lamb for UK usage is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

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

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The report keeps in mind that with the best rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the method might be equally advantageous towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

Developing the method will involve collecting information on agricultural performance, priority nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted locations. It will also develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– released earlier this year– in order to determine the land finest fit for nature remediation..

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

As a result, the report says, the food system is being “asked to perform an accomplishment of acrobatics” in supplying adequate land to produce the required food, but also to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

” Globally, the biggest potential carbon advantage of eating less meat would not actually be the reduction in emissions, but the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.