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

Last week, sequel of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was published, offering a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– an all-encompassing term that covers the production, processing, transport and consumption of food– in England..

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

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

The first part of the strategy, released in July 2020, provided recommendations for the federal government to deal with food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly released second part has the mentioned objective of supplying a “extensive strategy for changing the food system”..

The NFS is the culmination of more than 2 years worth of conferences and dialogues with industry leaders, academics, policymakers and the general 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 modification in the food system..

What is the National Food Strategy?

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. While the existing food system is capable of feeding the “most significant worldwide population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high environmental expense. The report notes:.

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

” The international food system is the single most significant contributor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, drought, freshwater pollution and the collapse of aquatic wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment modification, after the energy market.”.

Some have criticised the recommendation to tax wholesale sugar and salt as unfair or as disproportionately affecting lower-income households. Others state that the procedures set out in the report do not go far sufficient towards making the food system more sustainable.

” [The report] brings everybody around the table for a dialogue about what type of system do we have, what kind of system do we want to bring, what are the trade-offs and could federal governments do things in a different way.”.

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

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

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

This report by @food_strategy has some interesting and far reaching ideas that would imply a big modification for the 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.

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

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

Why is the food technique crucial for dealing with climate modification?

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

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

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

The food system has actually seen considerably smaller sized reductions in sector-wide emissions given that 2008 as compared to the economy as a whole: economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by almost one-third given that 2008, but food-related emissions have decreased by only 13% over the very same time..

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

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage of the 2008 emissions in that sector. By 2018, emissions had actually minimized by 13%, but none of this modification was because of improvements in farming. General emissions reduced by 32% over that very same time duration. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Attempting to develop a healthier population while farming in a less damaging way needs cooperation across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, consisting of rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have caused a third of overall international warming because the industrial transformation”, the report notes.

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 farming have actually been negligible– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

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

What parts of the food technique could make the most significant influence on climate modification?

” The question is how quickly will those reforms really deal with the environment challenge … I think the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the viewpoint of what the land sector requires to do to attain the UK national targets? I dont understand. Its definitely an action in the right direction, however theres most likely an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment model”, which makes every effort 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), as well as smaller sized centres to stimulate development to “create a better food system”. Presenting obligatory reporting on a range of metrics for food business using more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information programme, which would permit businesses and the government to evaluate their progress on the goals laid out in the report.

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

A number of the suggestions made in the report relate in some way to climate modification or environmental sustainability. These suggestions consist of:.

What are the constraints of the food strategy in attending to climate modification?

For example, the suggestion towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as a key location in requirement of research study financing. However, Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is already very strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

Gill also notes that the report, while thorough, does not completely think about the unintentional effects of its suggestions. A much greater proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is wasted than meat. The recommendations to eat less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

” Another thing that seems to be missing out on 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 may have altered.”.

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

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

The recommendations “appear to be nearly sort of looking in reverse instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, informs Carbon Brief. She adds:.

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

The report also “really shied” away from taking a strong position on decreasing meat intake, Springmann says, 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 resolve all sort of issues. And if you wish to address correctly the environmental issues, plus the health issues, you really have to address 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.

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

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 (best).

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UK acreage divided up by purpose. About 70% is dedicated to farming, primarily livestock and animals feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, demonstrates how much land is utilized abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the overall land usage occurs overseas. The combined acreage for rearing beef and lamb for UK usage is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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:.

Decreasing meat intake would also help reduce the pressure on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the huge majority of that land.

” The type of land that might provide the best ecological benefits is frequently 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% only produces 15%.”.

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a catastrophe”. The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment design”, which aims 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 spur innovation to “create a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would permit businesses and the government to evaluate their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing 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 “opportunity expense”, suggesting the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

The government has actually dedicated to producing an action to the method, consisting of propositions for new legislation, within the next 6 months..

The report notes that with the best incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique could be mutually advantageous towards farmers and the environment. It specifies:.

Total carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kilogram of different foodstuff. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, implying the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

In order to resolve these contending interests, the report calls for a national land-use strategy to finest designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major role in many nations and business net-zero targets, however a lot of these need the repurposing of farming land.

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

The chart below programs that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity expense” (yellow bars) is added to the emissions of various food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat actually exceeds that of beef, due to the big amounts of land needed to graze those animals and their hunger for tree saplings.

Establishing the strategy will include gathering data on farming productivity, concern nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted areas. It will likewise develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– released previously this year– in order to recognize the land finest matched for nature repair..

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As a result, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out a feat of acrobatics” in supplying enough land to produce the necessary food, however also to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

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

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