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

Last week, part 2 of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was published, providing 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..

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

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

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

The NFS is the culmination of more than 2 years worth of conferences and dialogues with market leaders, academics, policymakers and the public.

The first part of the method, released in July 2020, supplied suggestions for the government to address food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly published second part has the mentioned goal of supplying a “thorough strategy for transforming the food system”..

What is the National Food Strategy?

” [The report] brings everyone around the table for a dialogue about what sort of system do we have, what kind of system do we want to bring, what are the compromises and could federal governments do things differently.”.

Its goal was to offer 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 unjust or as disproportionately affecting lower-income households. Others say that the measures set out in the report do not go far adequate towards making the food system more sustainable.

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a catastrophe”. While the present food system is capable of feeding the “biggest worldwide population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high ecological cost. The report notes:.

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

This report by @food_strategy has some interesting and far reaching concepts that would mean a big change for the much better in our food system and make all of us much 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 country worldwide would gain from doing something of this kind”.

The scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the home nations “food systems are so securely interwoven as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn find some useful concepts” in the method.

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

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

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

Why is the food strategy essential for dealing with 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.

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

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have actually triggered a 3rd of overall worldwide warming since the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

Research recommends that the food system is accountable 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 researcher 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 different boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

The food system has actually seen significantly smaller reductions in sector-wide emissions given 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, but food-related emissions have decreased by only 13% over the very same time..

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

In addition, 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 actually been negligible– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

” Theres rather a great deal of siloed considering the food system. So, from the point of view of integrated nationwide policymaking that delivers, its great.”.

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

Trying to develop a healthier population while farming in a less destructive way requires collaboration across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

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

The proposed framework uses the “three compartment design”, which aims 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 spur innovation to “develop a much better food system”. Introducing obligatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies using more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information program, which would allow companies and the government to assess their progress on the objectives laid out in the report.

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

” The question is how quickly will those reforms really address the environment obstacle … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the viewpoint of what the land sector requires to do to attain the UK nationwide targets? I dont know. Its certainly a step in the best instructions, however theres probably an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

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

What are the limitations of the food technique in resolving environment modification?

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

Gill likewise notes that the report, while extensive, does not fully think about the unintended repercussions of its recommendations. For example, a much greater proportion of fresh vegetables and fruits is squandered than meat. The suggestions to consume less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

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

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

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

” 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 fruition by which time the world might have altered.”.

The food system “is very intricate”, Gill says, “but I do not believe thats any excuse for not in fact highlighting some of those concerns right at the start”.

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

The suggestions “seem to be almost sort of looking in reverse instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, informs Carbon Brief. She adds:.

” There are already lots of meat substitutes on the marketplace and much more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more plainly that sustainable and healthy diet plan does not always require to include processed meat options would have been essential, but that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

How does the food technique address the contending interests of farming land usage and land usage for carbon sequestration?

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

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

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant function in many countries and companies net-zero targets, but a number of these require the repurposing of farming land.

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually 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:.

As a result, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out a task of balancings” in providing adequate land to produce the required food, however also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing 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 usage is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

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Establishing the method will involve gathering data on agricultural performance, concern nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted areas. It will also construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched previously this year– in order to determine the land finest matched for nature repair..

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment model”, 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 spur innovation to “create a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information program, which would enable organizations and the government to assess their progress on the objectives 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 show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

” Globally, the most significant potential carbon benefit of eating less meat would not actually be the decrease in emissions, however the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

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” Implementation of any of those suggestions truly needs political will … The recommendations themselves could have been more progressive, however even the ones that exist do not appear to resonate very much with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

However, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has already 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 type of land that could deliver the biggest environmental advantages is often not very agriculturally efficient. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

Minimizing meat usage would likewise help ease the stress 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 using up the large bulk of that land.

Overall carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kg of different foodstuff. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance cost”, implying the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

In order to deal with these contending interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use technique to best allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

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

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