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

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, lays out 14 suggestions for the UK government to think about, including financial incentives, reporting and trade standards and targets for long-term 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 general public.

The very first part of the strategy, released in July 2020, offered recommendations for the government to deal with food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly published second part has actually the stated objective of supplying a “detailed strategy for transforming the food system”..

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

Last week, sequel of Englands National Food Strategy (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 intake 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 been “noncommittal” to a lot of the NFS proposals, according to the Guardian.

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

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

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

” The international food system is the single biggest contributor to biodiversity loss, logging, dry spell, freshwater pollution and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment change, after the energy industry.”.

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

Its aim was to supply a roadmap for changing the food system from its existing state to one that is healthier for the world and the population..

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

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

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

Why is the food method crucial for tackling environment change?

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

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

Attempting to develop a much healthier population while farming in a less destructive way requires collaboration across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

Additionally, virtually all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been because of cleaner energy and increased performance in the energy sector. Changes due to agriculture have actually been negligible– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

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

” Without addressing the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to meet those environment modification obligations [set out by law] and to add to mitigating environment change.”.

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

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

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

Research study suggests that the food system is responsible for about one-third of international greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about the 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 various studies draw various limits around what counts as the food sector.).

What parts of the food strategy could make the greatest influence on environment change?

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 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 much better food system”. Introducing compulsory reporting on a variety of metrics for food business using more than 250 individuals. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information program, which would enable organizations and the federal government to evaluate their progress on the objectives laid out in the report.

A number of the recommendations made in the report relate in some way to environment modification or ecological sustainability. These recommendations include:.

Davey calls the suggestions a “excellent starting point”. Nevertheless, he adds:.

” The question is how quickly will those reforms actually attend to the environment difficulty … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the perspective of what the land sector requires to do to accomplish the UK nationwide targets? I do not know. Its certainly an action in the ideal direction, but theres most likely an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

What are the limitations of the food method in addressing environment modification?

” There are already plenty of meat replaces 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 sustainable and healthy diet plan doesnt necessarily require to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been essential, but that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The suggestion towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as a key location in need of research financing. Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is already really well-developed. He tells Carbon Brief:.

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

The food system “is really complicated”, Gill states, “however I dont think thats any excuse for not actually highlighting a few of those issues right at the start”.

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

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while comprehensive, does not fully think about the unexpected consequences of its recommendations. For instance, a much greater proportion of fresh fruits and veggies is wasted than meat. The suggestions to consume less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

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

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

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you actually need to address all type of concerns. And if you want to address correctly the ecological issues, plus the health issues, you actually have to address the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

” Another thing that appears 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 fulfillment by which time the world may have altered.”.

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

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

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

In order to attend to these competing interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use method to finest allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

” The sort of land that could provide the best environmental benefits is often not really agriculturally efficient. The most productive 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 suggestions themselves might have been more progressive, but even the ones that are there dont seem to resonate really much with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

The report notes that with the right incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique might be equally helpful towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment design”, which aims 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 innovation to “produce a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would permit businesses and the government to evaluate their development on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very 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 product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance cost”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of various food. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance expense”, meaning the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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UK acreage divided up by function. About 70% is committed to farming, primarily animals and animals feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very 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 intake is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

” Globally, the most significant possible carbon benefit of eating less meat would not in fact be the reduction in emissions, but the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out an accomplishment of acrobatics” in supplying adequate land to produce the necessary food, but also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Minimizing meat consumption would likewise help relieve the strain on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the huge bulk of that land.

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

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

Establishing the strategy will involve gathering information on farming performance, priority nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated locations. It will also construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched earlier this year– in order to determine the land best fit for nature restoration..

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

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