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

The first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, provided recommendations for the government to deal with food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly published 2nd part has the specified objective of supplying a “extensive strategy for changing the food system”..

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

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

The government has actually devoted to producing a white paper and proposals for future laws in response within the next 6 months, although the early action from UK prime minister Boris Johnson has been “noncommittal” to numerous of the NFS proposals, according to the Guardian.

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

” The global food system is the single biggest contributor to biodiversity loss, logging, dry spell, freshwater pollution and the collapse of aquatic wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to climate change, after the energy market.”.

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

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..

” [The report] brings everyone around the table for a discussion about what sort of system do we have, what type of system do we wish to bring, what are the trade-offs and might federal governments do things in a different way.”.

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

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

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

However, the NFS has definitely brought these issues to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the global engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief. He explains:.

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

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

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

Why is the food technique crucial for tackling climate modification?

Furthermore, practically all of the gains made in the food sector have been because of cleaner energy and increased effectiveness in the energy sector. Modifications due to agriculture have been negligible– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

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

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

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

Other major factors to the emissions include transportation, fertiliser and food manufacturing and product packaging..

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to farming, including rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have caused a third of total global warming considering that the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

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

Research study recommends that the food system is responsible for about one-third of international greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about 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%, but various studies draw various boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

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

A number of the suggestions made in the report relate in some method to climate change or ecological sustainability. These suggestions include:.

” The question is how quickly will those reforms actually 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 attain the UK nationwide targets?

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

Guaranteeing funding for agricultural payments till a minimum of 2029 at the existing level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to aid in the transition to sustainable farming. The report likewise states that at least ₤ 500m of this must be “ring-fenced” for plans that motivate environment remediation and carbon sequestration, such as peatland repair. Creating a “rural land usage framework” that will encourage on the best method that any given piece of land ought to be utilized– whether for nature, bioenergy, agriculture or something else. The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment design”, 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), along with smaller centres to stimulate development to “produce a better food system”. The funds would be intended at innovating fruit and vegetable production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few areas. Reducing meat consumption by 30% over the next years. The report stops short of suggesting a tax on meat to accomplish this objective (as it advises for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Instead, it specifies, the federal government needs to intend for “nudging customers into changing their habits”. Presenting mandatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food business employing more than 250 people. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would allow businesses and the government to evaluate their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The program would consist of both the land-use information and the mandatory reporting data described above. Bringing these two types of information together, the report writes, will help “develop a clear, available and progressing image of the effect our diet plan has on nature, environment and public health”.

What are the restrictions of the food method in resolving environment modification?

Limousin beef cattle 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, informs Carbon Brief. She adds:.

” There are already lots of meat replaces on the marketplace 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 necessarily require to consist of processed meat options would have been essential, but that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

Gill likewise notes that the report, while thorough, does not fully consider the unintended consequences of its suggestions. A much greater percentage of fresh fruits and veggies is lost than meat. The suggestions to eat less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

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

” Another thing that appears to be missing is that foresighting, wheres the world going to from other sectors … Theres going to be a transformation in farming … And its going to take years [for the suggestions in the report] to come to fulfillment by which time the world might have altered.”.

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

The suggestion towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as an essential area in need of research financing. Nevertheless, Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is currently extremely well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you actually need to address all sort of issues. And if you want to resolve correctly the ecological concerns, plus the health concerns, you really have to deal with the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

The food system “is very complicated”, Gill says, “but I dont think thats any reason for not in fact highlighting a few of those issues right at the start”.

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

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

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

” Implementation of any of those recommendations truly requires political will … The recommendations themselves might have been more progressive, but even the ones that are there dont appear to resonate really much with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

However, 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 itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a catastrophe”. The proposed structure utilizes 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), as well as smaller centres to stimulate development to “create a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would permit organizations 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, reveals how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity expense”, suggesting the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

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

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out a feat of acrobatics” in offering enough land to produce the necessary food, however also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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 “chance cost”, suggesting the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The report notes that with the best incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the method could be mutually useful towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

The government has actually devoted to producing a reaction to the technique, consisting of propositions for new legislation, within the next 6 months..

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

Lowering meat consumption would also help minimize the strain on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the huge bulk of that land.

UK land location divided up by purpose. About 70% is committed to farming, primarily livestock and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, shows how much land is utilized abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land usage occurs overseas. The combined acreage for raising beef and lamb for UK usage is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Developing the method will include gathering information on farming performance, top priority nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted areas. It will also build on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched previously this year– in order to recognize the land finest matched for nature restoration..

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The chart listed below programs how all land in the UK is designated (left) and how much overseas land is used to produce food for the UK (ideal).

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

Nature-based services, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are expected to play a major function in numerous countries and companies net-zero targets, however a number of these require the repurposing of farming land.