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

The first part of the strategy, released in July 2020, offered suggestions for the government to resolve food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly published 2nd part has the stated objective of providing a “comprehensive plan for transforming the food system”..

In this Q&A, Carbon Brief explains and takes a look at the report how its suggestions line up– or do not line up– with the UKs climate targets and decarbonisation goals.

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

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

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

” The global food system is the single most significant contributor to biodiversity loss, logging, dry spell, freshwater contamination and the collapse of marine 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.

” [The report] brings everybody around the table for a dialogue about what kind of system do we have, what type of system do we wish to bring, what are the trade-offs and could governments do things in a different way.”.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a disaster”. While the current food system is capable of feeding the “biggest global population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high environmental expense. The report notes:.

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

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

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home countries “food systems are so securely interwoven as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “might in turn find some useful concepts” in the strategy.

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

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

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

Why is the food strategy important for taking on environment modification?

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

” Theres rather a great deal of siloed believing about the food system. From the point of view of integrated nationwide policymaking that delivers, its fantastic.”.

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

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

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 scientist at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, tells Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, but various research studies draw various limits around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

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

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

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

What parts of the food strategy could make the most significant effect on climate change?

The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment model”, which strives 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 centres to spur development to “produce a better food system”. Introducing necessary reporting on a variety of metrics for food business using more than 250 people. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would allow businesses and the federal government to assess their development on the goals laid out in the report.

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms really deal with the environment challenge … 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 accomplish the UK national targets?

Much of the recommendations made in the report relate in some method to climate change or ecological sustainability. These recommendations consist of:.

Davey calls the suggestions a “excellent starting point”. He adds:.

What are the constraints of the food technique in resolving environment change?

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

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

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

” 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 fruition by which time the world may have changed.”.

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

The food system “is very complicated”, Gill says, “however I do not believe thats any excuse for not in fact highlighting a few of those issues right at the start”.

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

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

For instance, the suggestion towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as an essential location in requirement of research study funding. Nevertheless, Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is currently extremely well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

” There are currently lots of meat replaces on the market and a lot more so when you consider natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet does not always require to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been very important, however that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually approximated that just over 20% of agricultural 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 function. About 70% is dedicated to agriculture, mainly animals and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, demonstrates how much land is utilized abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the overall land use takes place overseas. The combined land location for rearing beef and lamb for UK intake is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Developing the technique will involve collecting information on agricultural performance, concern nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated areas. It will also develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– released previously this year– in order to determine the land best suited for nature remediation..

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a miracle”. The proposed framework utilizes the “three 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), as well as smaller centres to spur development to “develop a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information program, which would permit businesses and the government to evaluate their development 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 suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, implying the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

Lowering meat intake would likewise help reduce the pressure on land resources, the report finds. 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.

The government has devoted to producing a response to the method, including propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform a task of acrobatics” in offering enough land to produce the required food, however also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

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

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

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Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of numerous food products. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance cost”, suggesting the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

” The sort of land that might provide the best ecological benefits is frequently not extremely agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

In order to attend to these contending interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use technique to finest assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

Nature-based options, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant function in lots of countries and companies net-zero targets, however a lot of these need the repurposing of farming land.

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

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

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The chart below shows how all land in the UK is allocated (left) and just how much abroad land is used to produce food for the UK (ideal).