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

The very first part of the strategy, released in July 2020, offered 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 actually the specified objective of providing a “comprehensive prepare for transforming the food system”..

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

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

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

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

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

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

” The worldwide food system is the single most significant factor to biodiversity loss, logging, dry spell, freshwater pollution and the collapse of marine wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to climate modification, after the energy industry.”.

This report by @food_strategy has some fascinating and far reaching ideas that would indicate a big modification for the better in our food system and make us all 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 NFS was commissioned by the UK federal government in 2019 as the first independent evaluation of the federal governments food policy in nearly three-quarters of a century.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a disaster”. While the present food system can feeding the “most significant global population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high environmental expense. The report notes:.

The NFS has definitely brought these problems to the forefront, Edward Davey, the worldwide engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief.

Why is the food method crucial for taking on environment modification?

Research suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the very 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.).

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

Other major contributors to the emissions consist of transport, fertiliser and food production and packaging..

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 likewise set a lawfully binding target to attain net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Springmann states:.

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, including rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have caused a third of overall worldwide warming because the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

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

” Theres rather a great deal of siloed thinking about the food system. So, from the viewpoint of integrated national policymaking that provides, its great.”.

In addition, virtually 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 farming have actually been minimal– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

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

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

What parts of the food method could make the most significant effect on climate modification?

Guaranteeing funding for agricultural payments until a minimum of 2029 at the present level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the shift to sustainable farming. The report likewise states that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this ought to be “ring-fenced” for plans that motivate environment remediation and carbon sequestration, such as peatland restoration. Producing a “rural land usage structure” that will advise on the finest manner in which any provided piece of land need to be used– whether for nature, something, farming or bioenergy else. The proposed structure uses the “three compartment design”, which makes every effort 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), along with smaller centres to spur development to “develop a better food system”. The funds would be focused on innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, among other locations. Minimizing meat consumption by 30% over the next decade. The report stops short of suggesting a tax on meat to attain this goal (as it suggests for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Rather, it mentions, the federal government should go for “nudging consumers into altering their practices”. Presenting obligatory reporting on a range of metrics for food companies utilizing more than 250 people. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would allow companies and the government to evaluate their progress on the objectives set out in the report. The programme would consist of both the land-use data and the compulsory reporting information explained above. Bringing these two kinds of data together, the report writes, will assist “create a clear, accessible and developing image of the impact our diet has on nature, environment and public health”.

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

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

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms really address the climate obstacle … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector needs to do to accomplish the UK nationwide targets?

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

” There are already lots of meat substitutes on the marketplace and much more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more plainly that sustainable and healthy diet doesnt always need to include processed meat alternatives would have been very important, but that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

For instance, the suggestion towards buying innovation lists alternative proteins as a key area in requirement of research study financing. Nevertheless, Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is already extremely well-developed. He tells Carbon Brief:.

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while extensive, does not fully consider the unexpected consequences of its suggestions. A much greater proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is squandered than meat. The suggestions to eat less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

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

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly require to address all sort of issues. And if you wish to deal with correctly the environmental issues, plus the health issues, you truly have to attend to the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

” 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 change in farming … And its going to take years [for the suggestions in the report] to come to fulfillment by which time the world may have altered.”.

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, tells Carbon Brief. She includes:.

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

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

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In order to resolve these completing interests, the report requires a national land-use technique to finest assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

Decreasing meat usage would also assist ease the pressure on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the vast majority of that land.

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

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

Nature-based services, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are expected to play a major role in lots of nations and companies net-zero targets, however much of these require the repurposing of agricultural land.

” The type of land that could provide the best ecological benefits is often not very agriculturally productive. The most efficient 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 disaster”. The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment model”, which makes every effort 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 development to “develop a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would enable organizations and the government to examine their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using 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 “chance expense”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

Establishing the technique will include collecting data on agricultural efficiency, priority nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted locations. It will likewise construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– released previously this year– in order to identify the land best matched for nature remediation..

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The government has actually dedicated to producing an action to the strategy, consisting of propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next six months..

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

The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, reveals how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. The combined land location for rearing beef and lamb for UK consumption is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

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

” Implementation of any of those suggestions truly requires political will … The recommendations themselves could have been more progressive, but even the ones that exist do not appear to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

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

The chart below programs how all land in the UK is designated (left) and just how much abroad land is utilized to produce food for the UK (best).

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