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

The first part of the method, released in July 2020, provided suggestions for the federal government to deal with food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released second part has the stated goal of offering a “detailed plan for transforming the food system”..

Last week, sequel of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was published, supplying a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– an all-inclusive 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.

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

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house nations “food systems are so securely linked as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “might in turn discover some beneficial ideas” in the strategy.

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

This report by @food_strategy has some fascinating and far reaching ideas 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 used up by this government. https://t.co/gl5rZJCrhO— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) July 15, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is the food strategy essential for taking on environment change?

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

Other major contributors to the emissions include food, fertiliser and transport production and packaging..

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

Almost 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 caused a third of total international warming because the commercial transformation”, the report notes.

Additionally, 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 quite a lot of siloed thinking of the food system. From the point of view of integrated nationwide policymaking that delivers, its great.”.

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 actually reduced by nearly one-third because 2008, however food-related emissions have actually reduced by only 13% over the very same time..

Trying to create a healthier population while farming in a less harmful method requires partnership across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He says:.

Research study recommends that the food system is responsible for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the exact 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 studies draw different borders around what counts as the food sector.).

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a portion of the 2008 emissions because sector. By 2018, emissions had lowered by 13%, but none of this modification was due to improvements in farming. Total emissions decreased by 32% over that very same period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

What parts of the food strategy could make the greatest influence on climate modification?

Much of the recommendations made in the report relate in some way to environment change or environmental sustainability. These suggestions consist of:.

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms really address the environment difficulty … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the perspective of what the land sector needs to do to attain the UK national targets? I do not know. Its certainly a step in the best direction, however theres most likely an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

Guaranteeing financing for farming payments till at least 2029 at the current level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to aid in the shift to sustainable farming. The report likewise states that at least ₤ 500m of this should be “ring-fenced” for schemes that encourage habitat restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland repair. Producing a “rural land use structure” that will encourage on the finest way that any given piece of land need to be utilized– whether for nature, farming, bioenergy or something else. The proposed structure utilizes the “3 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), as well as smaller sized centres to spur innovation to “produce a much better food system”. The funds would be targeted at innovating fruit and veggie production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, among other locations. Lowering meat intake by 30% over the next years. The report stops short of suggesting a tax on meat to accomplish this goal (as it recommends for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Instead, it specifies, the federal government should aim for “nudging customers into altering their habits”. Introducing compulsory reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies utilizing more than 250 people. 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 examine their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The program would include both the land-use information and the mandatory reporting data explained above. Bringing these two types of data together, the report composes, will assist “create a clear, accessible and progressing photo of the impact our diet has on nature, climate and public health”.

Davey calls the recommendations a “excellent starting point”. Nevertheless, he adds:.

What are the restrictions of the food technique in resolving climate change?

The recommendation towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a key area in need of research financing. However, Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is currently extremely strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

The suggestions “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 includes:.

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

” There are already plenty of meat replaces on the market and a lot more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet does not always require to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been essential, but that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

” Another thing that seems to be missing out on is that foresighting, wheres the world going to from other sectors … Theres going to be a change in farming … And its going to take years [for the recommendations in the report] to come to fruition by which time the world may have changed.”.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you really need to deal with all kinds of concerns. And if you desire to attend to correctly the environmental issues, plus the health concerns, you really need 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 food system “is really complicated”, Gill says, “however I dont think thats any reason for not in fact highlighting some of those concerns right at the start”.

The report likewise “actually shied” far from taking a strong position on reducing meat usage, Springmann states, with impacts on both the environment and public health. He says:.

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while extensive, does not totally consider the unintended effects of its suggestions. A much greater percentage of fresh fruits and veggies is wasted than meat. So the recommendations to consume less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

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

The government has actually committed to producing a response to the technique, consisting of proposals for new legislation, within the next 6 months..

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

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Nature-based services, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant role in lots of nations and business net-zero targets, however much of these require the repurposing of farming land.

Establishing the strategy will involve collecting data on agricultural efficiency, concern nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted areas. It will likewise construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– released earlier this year– in order to identify the land best fit for nature repair..

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

Total carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kilogram of different food. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that might 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 used abroad to produce food for the UK. The combined land location for rearing beef and lamb for UK intake is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Minimizing meat intake would also help alleviate the stress on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the large majority of that land.

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

The report notes that with the ideal incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique might be mutually beneficial towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

In order to address these completing interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use technique to finest assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

Nevertheless, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has already suggested 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:.

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

The chart listed below demonstrate how all land in the UK is assigned (left) and just how much abroad land is used to produce food for the UK (best).

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

” Implementation of any of those suggestions actually needs political will … The suggestions themselves might have been more progressive, however even the ones that exist dont appear to resonate extremely much with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment design”, which strives 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 stimulate development to “develop a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would allow organizations and the federal government to evaluate their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing 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 reveal the carbon “opportunity expense”, suggesting the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.