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

The very first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, offered suggestions for the federal government to resolve food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly released 2nd part has actually the stated goal of providing a “detailed plan for changing the food system”..

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

The federal 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 actually been “noncommittal” to much of the NFS propositions, according to the Guardian.

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

Last week, part two of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was released, supplying a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– an all-inclusive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and intake of food– in England..

The NFS is the conclusion 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?

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

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

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

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.

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house countries “food systems are so securely interwoven regarding remain in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “might in turn find some helpful concepts” in the strategy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other major factors to the emissions consist of transportation, food and fertiliser production and packaging..

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

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

Virtually 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 been negligible– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

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

Almost half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, consisting of rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have caused a 3rd of overall global warming because the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

The food system has actually seen substantially smaller decreases in sector-wide emissions since 2008 as compared to the economy as a whole: economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions have reduced by almost one-third given that 2008, but food-related emissions have actually decreased by just 13% over the same time..

Research study recommends that the food system is accountable for about one-third of international greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the very 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%, however various research studies draw various limits around what counts as the food sector.).

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

Attempting to create a healthier population while farming in a less destructive method needs cooperation across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He says:.

What parts of the food strategy could make the greatest influence on environment change?

Guaranteeing funding for agricultural payments up until at least 2029 at the present level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to assist in the transition to sustainable farming. The report also specifies that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this ought to be “ring-fenced” for plans that encourage habitat restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland remediation. Developing a “rural land use framework” that will encourage on the very best manner in which any provided piece of land ought to be used– whether for nature, agriculture, something or bioenergy else. The proposed framework uses the “three compartment design”, which pursues a balance 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), in addition to smaller sized centres to spur development to “create a better food system”. The funds would be focused on innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, among other locations. Minimizing meat usage by 30% over the next years. The report stops short of suggesting a tax on meat to attain this goal (as it advises for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Rather, it specifies, the government needs to intend for “nudging consumers into altering their routines”. Introducing necessary reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies employing more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information program, which would allow services and the government to assess their development on the objectives set out in the report. The program would include both the land-use information and the necessary reporting data explained above. Bringing these 2 kinds of data together, the report composes, will assist “create a clear, available and evolving image of the impact our diet plan has on nature, climate and public health”.

A number of the recommendations made in the report relate in some method to environment modification or ecological sustainability. These recommendations consist of:.

Davey calls the recommendations a “great starting point”. However, he includes:.

” The question is how quickly will those reforms truly address the environment difficulty … I think the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector requires to do to attain the UK national targets?

What are the limitations of the food strategy in resolving climate change?

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

The food system “is really complex”, Gill says, “however I dont think thats any reason for not in fact highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

The report also “actually shied” far from taking a strong position on lowering meat consumption, Springmann states, with effect on both the environment and public health. He says:.

Gill likewise keeps in mind that the report, while thorough, does not completely think about the unintended repercussions of its recommendations. For instance, a much greater proportion of fresh vegetables and fruits is squandered than meat. The suggestions to consume less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

The recommendations “appear to be practically sort of looking backwards instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, tells Carbon Brief. She includes:.

For instance, the recommendation towards purchasing development lists alternative proteins as a crucial area in need of research study financing. However, Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is already extremely well-developed. He tells Carbon Brief:.

” There are currently lots of meat substitutes on the marketplace and a lot more so when you consider natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet plan doesnt necessarily need to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been essential, however that was missed out on there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

” Another thing that appears to be missing 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 fulfillment by which time the world may have changed.”.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you actually require to attend to all kinds of issues. And if you wish to address correctly the ecological issues, plus the health issues, you really need to deal with the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

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

Minimizing meat intake would likewise help minimize the stress on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the large majority of that land.

In order to resolve these competing interests, the report requires a national land-use technique to best allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

The chart listed below shows that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity expense” (yellow bars) is contributed 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 required to graze those animals and their cravings for tree saplings.

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The government has actually committed to producing an action to the method, consisting of propositions for new legislation, within the next 6 months..

Developing the strategy will include collecting information on agricultural productivity, top priority nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated areas. It will also develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– released earlier this year– in order to determine the land finest matched for nature remediation..

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

” The kind of land that might provide the biggest ecological advantages is frequently not very agriculturally efficient. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

As a result, the report says, the food system is being “asked to perform an accomplishment of acrobatics” in providing sufficient land to produce the necessary food, but likewise to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

The right-hand side of the chart, using the very same scale, shows how much land is utilized overseas 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.

The chart listed below programs how all land in the UK is designated (left) and how much abroad land is utilized to produce food for the UK (best).

Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of numerous food. The teal bars indicate 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. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Nature-based services, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are expected to play a significant role in numerous countries and business net-zero targets, however a number of these need the repurposing of farming land.

” Globally, the biggest possible carbon advantage of eating less meat would not in fact be the decrease in emissions, but the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

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The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a disaster”. The proposed framework uses the “3 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 “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 allow services and the government to evaluate their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, reveals how much land is utilized 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 cost”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

The report keeps in mind that with the right incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique could be equally helpful towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

” Implementation of any of those suggestions really needs political will … The suggestions themselves could have been more progressive, but even the ones that are there dont seem to resonate very much with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

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