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

The first part of the method, released in July 2020, offered suggestions for the government to resolve food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released 2nd part has the specified objective of supplying a “detailed prepare for changing the food system”..

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

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, sets out 14 recommendations for the UK government to consider, consisting of monetary incentives, reporting and trade standards and targets for long-lasting modification in the food system..

The NFS is the conclusion of more than 2 years worth of meetings and discussions with industry leaders, academics, policymakers and the public.

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

Its goal was to supply 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 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 government. https://t.co/gl5rZJCrhO— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) July 15, 2021.

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

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

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

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

” The global food system is the single greatest contributor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, dry spell, freshwater contamination and the collapse of marine wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to climate modification, after the energy market.”.

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

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

Why is the food technique crucial for tackling climate modification?

Attempting to create a healthier population while farming in a less damaging method requires collaboration across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

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

Research suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with 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%, however different research studies draw different borders around what counts as the food sector.).

Essentially all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been due to cleaner energy and increased effectiveness in the energy sector. Changes due to agriculture have been minimal– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

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

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

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are because of agriculture, including rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have actually triggered a third of total international warming because the commercial transformation”, the report notes.

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed considering the food system. So, from the viewpoint of integrated national policymaking that delivers, its fantastic.”.

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

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

What parts of the food strategy could make the most significant impact on environment modification?

The proposed structure uses the “three compartment design”, 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 innovation to “produce a much better food system”. Introducing mandatory reporting on a range of metrics for food companies using more than 250 individuals. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would enable businesses and the government to examine their progress on the goals laid out in the report.

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms actually address the climate obstacle … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector requires to do to attain the UK national targets?

A lot of the suggestions made in the report relate in some method to climate modification or environmental sustainability. These suggestions include:.

Davey calls the suggestions a “great starting point”. He includes:.

What are the constraints of the food technique in attending to environment modification?

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

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

The food system “is extremely intricate”, Gill says, “but I dont believe thats any excuse for not really highlighting a few of those concerns right at the start”.

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

” 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 suggestions in the report] to come to fulfillment by which time the world might have changed.”.

Gill also notes that the report, while comprehensive, does not fully think about the unintentional consequences of its suggestions. A much higher proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is squandered than meat. So the suggestions to consume less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

” There are currently lots of meat substitutes on the marketplace and even more so when you consider natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more plainly that healthy and sustainable diet doesnt always require to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been essential, but that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The suggestion towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as a key area in requirement of research study financing. Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is already really strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you really require to resolve all kinds of problems. And if you wish to resolve correctly the ecological issues, plus the health concerns, you really have to resolve the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

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

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

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually estimated that just 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:.

UK acreage divided up by purpose. About 70% is committed to farming, generally livestock and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very same scale, reveals how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land usage takes place 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.

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

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

Minimizing meat usage would also help relieve the strain on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the vast majority of that land.

Total carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kilogram of different food. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity cost”, implying the quantity 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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The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a catastrophe”. The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment model”, which aims for a balance 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 “develop a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would permit services and the federal government to evaluate their development on the goals 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 indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity cost”, implying the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

In order to attend to these competing interests, the report calls for a national land-use technique to best allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

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

” Implementation of any of those recommendations really requires political will … The recommendations themselves could have been more progressive, however even the ones that are there do not appear to resonate very much with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

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

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

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

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

Establishing the strategy will include collecting information on agricultural efficiency, concern nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted locations. It will also build on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– released previously this year– in order to identify the land best fit for nature restoration..

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

Nature-based options, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are expected to play a significant role in numerous nations and business net-zero targets, however much of these need the repurposing of agricultural land.