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

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

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

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, sets out 14 suggestions for the UK federal government to think about, consisting of monetary rewards, reporting and trade standards and targets for long-term modification in the food system..

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 freshly released 2nd part has the mentioned goal of supplying a “comprehensive prepare for changing the food system”..

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

Its aim 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..

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

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

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

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home countries “food systems are so firmly linked as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “might in turn find some helpful ideas” in the method.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In addition, practically all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been due to cleaner energy and increased performance in the energy sector. Changes due to agriculture have been minimal– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

Other major contributors to the emissions include transportation, fertiliser and food production and packaging..

The food system has 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 actually decreased by nearly one-third given that 2008, however food-related emissions have actually reduced by just 13% over the same time..

Research study recommends that the food system is accountable for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the 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 limits around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

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

Almost half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have actually triggered a third of total worldwide warming because the industrial transformation”, the report notes.

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

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

Ensuring funding for agricultural payments until at least 2029 at the current level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the shift to sustainable farming. The report also stipulates 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 encourage on the very best way that any offered piece of land should be utilized– whether for nature, bioenergy, something or agriculture else. The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment design”, which makes every effort 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 sized centres to stimulate development to “create a much better food system”. The funds would be targeted at innovating fruit and veggie production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, among other areas. Reducing meat consumption by 30% over the next decade. The report stops short of suggesting a tax on meat to achieve this aim (as it advises for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Rather, it mentions, the government ought to aim for “nudging consumers into changing their habits”. Presenting obligatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food business employing more than 250 people. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would permit organizations and the federal government to assess their development on the objectives set out in the report. The program would consist of both the land-use data and the mandatory reporting data explained above. Bringing these two kinds of data together, the report writes, will assist “create a clear, available and developing image of the impact our diet has on nature, environment and public health”.

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms truly deal with the climate obstacle … I think the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector needs to do to achieve the UK nationwide targets?

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

What are the limitations of the food method in addressing climate change?

For instance, the recommendation towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a key area in requirement of research funding. Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is currently really well-developed. He tells Carbon Brief:.

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

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

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

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

” Another thing that seems 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 recommendations in the report] to come to fulfillment by which time the world might have changed.”.

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

Gill also notes that the report, while extensive, does not fully think about the unintentional effects of its suggestions. For example, a much greater percentage of fresh vegetables and fruits is lost than meat. The suggestions to eat less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

” There are currently plenty of meat replaces on the marketplace and even more so when you consider natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet does not necessarily require to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been very important, but that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you actually need to attend to all kinds of concerns. And if you want to resolve appropriately the ecological issues, plus the health concerns, you actually need to deal with the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

How does the food method address the competing interests of farming land use and land use for carbon sequestration?

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a catastrophe”. The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment design”, which makes every effort 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 “create a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would enable services 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 same scale, reveals how much land is used 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 show the carbon “opportunity cost”, meaning the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

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

Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of different foodstuff. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, suggesting the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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” The type of land that could provide the best environmental benefits is typically not very agriculturally efficient. 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 keeps in mind that with the ideal incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy could be mutually beneficial towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

” Implementation of any of those suggestions actually requires political will … The suggestions themselves might have been more progressive, however even the ones that are there do not seem to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform a feat of balancings” in providing sufficient land to produce the needed food, however also to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

Developing the method will include gathering data on agricultural performance, priority nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated areas. It will likewise develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– released earlier this year– in order to identify the land best matched for nature repair..

” Globally, the greatest potential 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.”.

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

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

The federal government has devoted to producing a response to the strategy, consisting of propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next six months..

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

Decreasing meat intake would likewise assist relieve the strain on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the vast bulk of that land.

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

In order to resolve these competing interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use strategy to finest allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

UK land area divided up by function. About 70% is dedicated to agriculture, generally animals and animals feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, demonstrates how much land is used overseas to produce food for the UK. About half of the overall land use occurs overseas. The combined land location for raising beef and lamb for UK usage is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.