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

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

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

The very first part of the method, released in July 2020, supplied suggestions for the government to resolve food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly released second part has actually the specified goal of supplying a “extensive strategy for changing the food system”..

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

Recently, part 2 of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was released, providing a broad summary of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and usage of food– in England..

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

” The global food system is the single greatest contributor to biodiversity loss, logging, dry spell, freshwater contamination and the collapse of aquatic wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment modification, after the energy market.”.

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

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

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

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

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

This report by @food_strategy has some interesting and far reaching concepts that would suggest 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 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 firmly linked regarding be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn find some beneficial ideas” in the technique.

Why is the food strategy crucial for tackling climate 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.

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

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are because of agriculture, consisting of rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have triggered a 3rd of total worldwide warming because the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

” Without dealing with the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to satisfy those environment modification commitments [set out by law] and to add to mitigating climate modification.”.

” Theres quite a lot of siloed thinking of the food system. From the point of view of integrated national policymaking that delivers, its wonderful.”.

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

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

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

The food system has seen considerably smaller decreases 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 considering that 2008, however food-related emissions have decreased by only 13% over the same time..

Trying to produce a healthier population while farming in a less harmful way needs cooperation across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

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

Ensuring funding for agricultural payments until at least 2029 at the current level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the shift to sustainable farming. The report likewise states that at least ₤ 500m of this must be “ring-fenced” for plans that motivate habitat restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland restoration. Developing a “rural land usage structure” that will encourage on the very best manner in which any given piece of land must be used– whether for nature, farming, bioenergy or something else. The proposed structure uses the “three compartment model”, which pursues 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 development to “develop a better food system”. The funds would be targeted at innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, amongst other areas. Decreasing meat consumption by 30% over the next decade. The report stops short of recommending a tax on meat to attain this aim (as it suggests for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Rather, it specifies, the government must go for “nudging customers into changing their habits”. Presenting necessary reporting on a variety of metrics for food business using more than 250 individuals. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data programme, which would enable services and the government to assess their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The program would include both the land-use data and the necessary reporting data described above. Bringing these 2 kinds of data together, the report writes, will assist “produce a clear, accessible and developing image of the effect our diet has on nature, climate and public health”.

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms really address the climate challenge … I think 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?

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

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

What are the constraints of the food technique in resolving climate modification?

The food system “is extremely complex”, Gill states, “however I dont believe thats any excuse for not really highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

” There are already a lot of meat substitutes on the marketplace and a lot more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet plan doesnt always need to include processed meat options would have been necessary, but that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

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

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

” 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 may have changed.”.

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

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while thorough, does not completely consider the unexpected repercussions of its suggestions. For instance, a much greater percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables is squandered than meat. So the recommendations to eat less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

The recommendation towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as an essential location in requirement of research funding. However, Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is already very strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you really require to attend to all type of concerns. And if you wish to deal with effectively the ecological issues, plus the health concerns, you really have to resolve the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

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

” The sort of land that might provide the greatest environmental 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% just produces 15%.”.

The chart listed 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 actually exceeds that of beef, due to the large quantities of land required to graze those animals and their appetite for tree saplings.

The federal government has actually dedicated to producing a reaction to the strategy, consisting of proposals for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

Establishing the method will include gathering information on farming performance, concern nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted areas. It will likewise construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched earlier this year– in order to identify the land best fit for nature restoration..

Minimizing meat consumption would likewise assist ease the pressure on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the vast bulk of that land.

” Globally, the greatest possible carbon benefit of consuming less meat would not in fact be the decrease in emissions, however the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

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

The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, reveals how much land is utilized 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.

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

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The report keeps in mind that with the right rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique might be mutually beneficial towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

Sharelines from this story.

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually approximated that simply over 20% of agricultural 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:.

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment design”, which aims 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 spur innovation to “produce a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information programme, which would permit companies and the government to examine their development on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the same scale, shows how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. The teal bars show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance expense”, implying the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major role in lots of countries and companies net-zero targets, but much of these need the repurposing of agricultural land.

In order to resolve these completing interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use technique to finest designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

As a result, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out an accomplishment of balancings” in providing adequate land to produce the necessary food, however likewise to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

” Implementation of any of those recommendations actually needs political will … The suggestions themselves could have been more progressive, however even the ones that exist dont seem to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

The chart listed below shows how all land in the UK is designated (left) and just how much overseas land is utilized to produce food for the UK (right).