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

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

Last week, part 2 of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was released, supplying a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and usage of food– in England..

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

The very first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, provided suggestions for the federal government to attend to food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly released 2nd part has actually the specified objective of supplying a “comprehensive prepare for transforming the food system”..

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, lays out 14 recommendations for the UK federal government to think about, consisting of financial incentives, reporting and trade standards and targets for long-term change in the food system..

The federal government has actually committed 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 much of the NFS proposals, according to the Guardian.

What is the National Food Strategy?

The scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the house nations “food systems are so firmly linked as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn discover some beneficial ideas” in the technique.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a miracle”. While the current food system can feeding the “greatest international population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high ecological cost. The report notes:.

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

” The global food system is the single greatest factor to biodiversity loss, logging, drought, freshwater pollution and the collapse of marine wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment modification, after the energy industry.”.

This report by @food_strategy has some intriguing 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 strategies will be taken up by this federal government. https://t.co/gl5rZJCrhO— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) July 15, 2021.

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

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

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

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

Why is the food method essential for taking on climate modification?

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed thinking of the food system. So, from the perspective of integrated nationwide policymaking that provides, its wonderful.”.

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 triggered a 3rd of total international warming because the industrial transformation”, the report notes.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage of the 2008 emissions because sector. By 2018, emissions had actually decreased by 13%, however none of this change was because of improvements in agriculture. Overall emissions reduced by 32% over that same time period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Trying to develop a much healthier population while farming in a less harmful method needs cooperation throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

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

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

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

Research recommends that the food system is accountable for about one-third of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about 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.).

The food system has seen considerably smaller decreases in sector-wide emissions since 2008 as compared to the economy as a whole: economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions have reduced by almost one-third since 2008, but food-related emissions have decreased by only 13% over the exact same time..

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 been minimal– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

What parts of the food strategy could make the greatest effect on environment modification?

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

Davey calls the suggestions a “excellent starting point”. However, he includes:.

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms truly address the environment 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?

Guaranteeing funding for agricultural payments till a minimum of 2029 at the current level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the shift to sustainable farming. The report also specifies that at least ₤ 500m of this must be “ring-fenced” for schemes that encourage habitat repair and carbon sequestration, such as peatland remediation. Developing a “rural land use framework” that will encourage on the very best method that any given piece of land should be used– whether for nature, something, bioenergy or farming else. The proposed structure utilizes the “3 compartment model”, which pursues a balance 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 stimulate development to “develop a better food system”. The funds would be focused on innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few locations. Minimizing meat usage by 30% over the next decade. The report stops short of recommending a tax on meat to achieve this objective (as it advises for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Rather, it specifies, the government ought to go for “nudging consumers into altering their routines”. Introducing obligatory reporting on a range of metrics for food business utilizing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data programme, which would enable companies and the federal government to evaluate their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The program would include both the land-use information and the compulsory reporting information explained above. Bringing these 2 kinds of information together, the report writes, will help “create a clear, accessible and evolving picture of the impact our diet has on nature, environment and public health”.

What are the restrictions of the food technique in attending to environment change?

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

The suggestion towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in need of research financing. However, Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is currently extremely strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while extensive, does not completely think about the unintentional consequences of its suggestions. For example, a much greater proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is wasted than meat. The recommendations to eat less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

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

The recommendations “seem to be practically sort of looking backwards instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, tells Carbon Brief. She includes:.

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

” Another thing that appears 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 fruition by which time the world might have altered.”.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you actually require to resolve all type of concerns. And if you wish to deal with effectively the ecological issues, plus the health issues, you truly need to address the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

” There are currently plenty of meat substitutes on the marketplace and even more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more plainly that healthy and sustainable diet does not always require to include processed meat alternatives would have been necessary, but that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

How does the food technique address the completing interests of agricultural land use and land usage for carbon sequestration?

Overall carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kilogram of numerous foodstuff. The teal bars show the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity expense”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has 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:.

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant function in many nations and business net-zero targets, however a number of these require the repurposing of farming land.

The chart listed 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).

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

Reducing meat usage would also help minimize the pressure 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 large majority of that land.

” Globally, the biggest possible carbon benefit 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, utilizing the exact same scale, reveals how much land is used abroad 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 UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually estimated that simply over 20% of agricultural land need to be rewilded or transformed to bioenergy or other, non-agricultural crops in order to accomplish net-zero by 2050. The NFS report states:.

Developing the method will involve gathering data on agricultural efficiency, top priority nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated locations. It will likewise build on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– released previously this year– in order to determine the land best suited for nature repair..

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

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

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out a task of balancings” in providing adequate land to produce the essential food, however also to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

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

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The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment model”, 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), as well as smaller sized centres to spur innovation to “develop a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would permit organizations and the federal government to evaluate their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the very same scale, shows how much land is used 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”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

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

” The type of land that could provide the biggest ecological benefits is frequently not really agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.