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

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

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

Last week, part two of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was released, offering a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– an all-encompassing term that covers the production, processing, transport and consumption of food– in England..

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

The very first part of the method, published in July 2020, supplied recommendations for the government to resolve food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly published 2nd part has the stated objective of providing a “extensive prepare for changing the food system”..

The federal government has dedicated to producing a white paper and proposals for future laws in action within the next six 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?

Davey adds that, in his view, “every country in the world would benefit from doing something of this kind”.

The scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the house nations “food systems are so firmly 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 NFS was commissioned by the UK government in 2019 as the very first independent review of the federal governments food policy in nearly three-quarters of a century.

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

Nevertheless, the NFS has actually definitely brought these problems to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the global engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief. He discusses:.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a catastrophe”. While the present food system is capable of feeding the “most significant international population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high environmental expense. The report notes:.

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

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

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

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

Why is the food technique crucial for taking on climate change?

Other significant contributors to the emissions include fertiliser, transport and food manufacturing and product packaging..

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed thinking about the food system. So, from the viewpoint of integrated nationwide policymaking that delivers, its great.”.

Research suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about 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%, but different research studies draw various borders around what counts as the food sector.).

In addition, essentially all of the gains made in the food sector have been because of cleaner energy and increased performance in the energy sector. Modifications due to farming have been minimal– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

Trying to create a much healthier population while farming in a less destructive way needs cooperation throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, including rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have triggered a third of total international warming given that the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

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

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

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage of the 2008 emissions because sector. By 2018, emissions had minimized by 13%, but none of this modification was due to enhancements in agriculture. Overall emissions reduced by 32% over that very same time period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

What parts of the food method could make the greatest effect on environment modification?

Davey calls the recommendations a “great starting point”. He adds:.

Ensuring financing for farming 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 likewise states that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this should be “ring-fenced” for schemes that motivate habitat restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland remediation. Creating a “rural land usage structure” that will recommend on the very best manner in which any given piece of land need to be utilized– whether for nature, bioenergy, something or agriculture else. The proposed structure uses the “three compartment model”, 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 innovation to “develop a better food system”. The funds would be focused on innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few areas. Decreasing meat intake by 30% over the next decade. The report stops short of advising a tax on meat to achieve this aim (as it suggests for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Rather, it states, the federal government needs to go for “nudging consumers into altering their practices”. Introducing obligatory reporting on a range 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 data programme, which would allow businesses and the federal government to evaluate their development on the goals laid out in the report. The program would consist of both the land-use information and the obligatory reporting information explained above. Bringing these two kinds of information together, the report composes, will help “develop a clear, accessible and evolving photo of the impact our diet has on nature, environment and public health”.

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms actually attend to the climate challenge … I think the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector requires to do to accomplish the UK nationwide targets?

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

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

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

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

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

For example, the recommendation towards purchasing innovation lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in requirement of research study funding. However, Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is currently really strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

The commissioning of the report– it was led by business person and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– implies the report itself “shows a little bit of a skewed focus” towards business-focused services, Springmann states.

Gill likewise notes that the report, while comprehensive, does not totally think about the unexpected repercussions of its recommendations. For example, a much greater percentage of fresh vegetables and fruits is wasted than meat. So the suggestions to consume less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

” 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 altered.”.

” There are already a lot of meat replaces on the marketplace and a lot more so when you consider natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet plan does not necessarily require to include processed meat options would have been essential, however that was missed out on there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The federal government has actually dedicated to producing a reaction to the method, consisting of proposals for new legislation, within the next six months..

The chart below programs 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 actually goes beyond that of beef, due to the large amounts of land needed to graze those animals and their cravings for tree saplings.

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

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has currently suggested his hesitancy to support some of the policy recommendations laid out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, warns Springmann:.

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

Sharelines from this story.

UK acreage divided up by function. About 70% is devoted to farming, primarily animals and animals feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the same scale, shows how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land usage takes location overseas. The combined land area for rearing beef and lamb for UK usage is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

Developing the method will involve collecting information on farming performance, concern nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted locations. It will also develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– released earlier this year– in order to identify the land finest matched for nature restoration..

” The kind of land that might provide the best environmental benefits is typically not extremely 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 consumption would likewise assist relieve the strain 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 using up the large majority of that land.

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

The report keeps in mind that with the best rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique might be equally helpful towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

Total carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kg of different food products. The teal bars show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance cost”, implying the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a disaster”. The proposed framework utilizes the “3 compartment model”, which strives 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 spur innovation to “produce a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would permit businesses and the federal government to examine their development on the goals laid out in the report. 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 teal bars suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance expense”, implying the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

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