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

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

The very first part of the technique, released in July 2020, supplied recommendations for the government to attend to food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly published 2nd part has the mentioned objective of supplying a “extensive plan for transforming the food system”..

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

The federal government has committed to producing a white paper and propositions for future laws in action 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 proposals, according to the Guardian.

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, sets out 14 suggestions for the UK government to think about, including financial rewards, reporting and trade standards and targets for long-lasting modification in the food system..

Last week, sequel of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was published, offering a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transport and consumption of food– in England..

What is the National Food Strategy?

Davey adds that, in his view, “every nation in the world would gain from doing something of this kind”.

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

Its aim was to provide a roadmap for transforming the food system from its current state to one that is healthier for the population and the planet..

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

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

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

The scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house countries “food systems are so firmly interwoven as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “might in turn find some beneficial concepts” in the technique.

” The global food system is the single greatest factor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, drought, freshwater pollution and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to climate change, after the energy industry.”.

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

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

Why is the food technique essential for dealing with climate change?

In addition, essentially all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been because of cleaner energy and increased efficiency in the energy sector. Changes due to agriculture have actually been minimal– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

Other major factors to the emissions consist of food, transport and fertiliser 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 government has likewise 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. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

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

” Without addressing the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to satisfy those climate change responsibilities [set out by law] and to contribute to mitigating climate change.”.

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

” Theres rather a great deal of siloed considering the food system. From the point of view of integrated national policymaking that provides, its great.”.

Research recommends 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, informs Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, but various research studies draw various limits around what counts as the food sector.).

What parts of the food technique could make the biggest effect on environment change?

Davey calls the suggestions a “great starting point”. However, he adds:.

Numerous of the suggestions made in the report relate in some method to environment change or ecological sustainability. These suggestions consist of:.

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms actually attend to the environment obstacle … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the perspective of what the land sector requires to do to attain the UK national targets? I dont know. Its certainly a step in the right direction, but theres most likely an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

Ensuring financing for farming payments till at least 2029 at the existing level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to assist in the shift to sustainable farming. The report likewise states that at least ₤ 500m of this ought to be “ring-fenced” for plans that encourage habitat repair and carbon sequestration, such as peatland remediation. Creating a “rural land use framework” that will recommend on the finest method that any offered piece of land must be utilized– whether for nature, something, bioenergy or farming else. The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment model”, 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), in addition to smaller sized centres to spur innovation to “produce a better food system”. The funds would be focused on innovating fruit and vegetable production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, amongst other areas. Reducing meat usage by 30% over the next decade. The report stops brief of suggesting a tax on meat to achieve this goal (as it advises for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Instead, it specifies, the federal government should go for “nudging customers into altering their habits”. Introducing obligatory reporting on a range of metrics for food companies employing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would enable businesses and the government to evaluate their progress on the objectives set out in the report. The program would consist of both the land-use data and the compulsory reporting data explained above. Bringing these 2 kinds of data together, the report composes, will assist “develop a clear, available and progressing image of the effect our diet has on nature, climate and public health”.

What are the limitations of the food method in dealing with environment modification?

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you really need to attend to all kinds of issues. And if you want to resolve appropriately the ecological issues, plus the health issues, you actually have to resolve 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.

The recommendations “appear to be almost sort of looking backwards rather than looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, tells Carbon Brief. She adds:.

” Another thing that appears to be missing 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 changed.”.

The commissioning of the report– it was led by business person and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– means the report itself “shows a little bit of a manipulated focus” towards business-focused services, Springmann states.

For example, the suggestion towards purchasing development lists alternative proteins as a key location in requirement of research study financing. Nevertheless, Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is already very strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

” There are already plenty of meat replaces on the market and much more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet plan does not always need to consist of processed meat options would have been very important, however that was missed out on there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

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

Gill also notes that the report, while extensive, does not completely think about the unexpected effects of its suggestions. For example, a much greater percentage of fresh vegetables and fruits is squandered than meat. So the recommendations to eat less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

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

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

Sharelines from this story.

The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the same scale, shows how much land is utilized abroad to produce food for the UK. The combined land area for rearing beef and lamb for UK consumption is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

” Globally, the most significant possible carbon advantage of consuming less meat would not really be the reduction in emissions, but the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

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

Establishing the strategy will involve collecting information on agricultural productivity, top priority 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 strategies– launched earlier this year– in order to recognize the land best fit for nature remediation..

The federal government has dedicated to producing an action to the technique, including proposals for new legislation, within the next 6 months..

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out a task of acrobatics” in supplying adequate land to produce the required food, however likewise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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In order to attend to these competing interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use strategy to best designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually currently shown 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:.

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

” The kind of land that could provide the best environmental advantages is often not very 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%.”.

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

Nature-based options, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major role in many nations and companies net-zero targets, however a lot of these require the repurposing of farming land.

Decreasing meat intake would likewise assist alleviate the pressure on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the large majority of that land.

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment model”, 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 centres to stimulate innovation to “develop a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would permit services and the government to evaluate their development on the goals 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”, indicating the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

Total carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kilogram of various food. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.