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

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

The first part of the method, published in July 2020, offered recommendations for the federal government to deal with food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published 2nd part has actually the specified objective of providing a “thorough prepare for changing the food system”..

Last week, part two of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was released, providing a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and usage of food– in England..

The federal government has committed to producing a white paper and proposals 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 a number of the NFS proposals, according to the Guardian.

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

” [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 might governments do things differently.”.

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

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

Davey includes that, in his view, “every country 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 present food system is capable of feeding the “greatest global population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high environmental cost. The report notes:.

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

However, the NFS has actually definitely brought these concerns to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the international engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief. He explains:.

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

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

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home countries “food systems are so securely linked as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “may in turn find some beneficial ideas” in the technique.

Why is the food technique essential for taking on environment modification?

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

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

Trying to develop a healthier population while farming in a less harmful way needs cooperation throughout disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, including rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have actually caused a 3rd of total global warming because the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

In addition, essentially all of the gains made in the food sector have been due to cleaner energy and increased efficiency in the energy sector. Changes due to farming have actually 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. So, from the perspective of integrated national policymaking that delivers, its great.”.

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

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a portion of the 2008 emissions in that sector. By 2018, emissions had actually decreased by 13%, however none of this change was due to enhancements in farming. General emissions decreased by 32% over that exact same time duration. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Other major contributors to the emissions consist of food, fertiliser and transportation manufacturing and packaging..

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

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

Ensuring funding for farming payments till a minimum of 2029 at the current level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to aid in the shift to sustainable farming. The report also specifies that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this must be “ring-fenced” for plans that motivate environment repair and carbon sequestration, such as peatland repair. Creating a “rural land use framework” that will encourage on the finest way that any provided piece of land should be used– whether for nature, agriculture, something or bioenergy else. The proposed structure utilizes the “3 compartment design”, which pursues 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 sized centres to spur innovation to “develop a much better food system”. The funds would be aimed at innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few locations. Lowering meat intake by 30% over the next years. The report stops brief of recommending a tax on meat to achieve this objective (as it suggests for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Rather, it mentions, the federal government needs to aim for “nudging consumers into altering their routines”. Introducing necessary 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 enable companies and the federal government to examine their progress on the objectives set out in the report. The programme would include both the land-use information and the mandatory reporting data described above. Bringing these 2 types of data together, the report writes, will help “produce a clear, accessible and developing image of the impact our diet plan has on nature, environment and public health”.

Davey calls the recommendations a “good starting point”. He includes:.

” The question is how quickly will those reforms really deal with the environment obstacle … 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?

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

What are the limitations of the food method in attending to environment modification?

” There are already plenty of meat substitutes on the market and much more so when you consider natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more plainly that healthy and sustainable diet does not always need to consist of processed meat options would have been necessary, however that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

Gill likewise keeps in mind that the report, while extensive, does not fully consider the unintended consequences of its suggestions. For example, a much higher proportion of fresh vegetables and fruits is squandered than meat. The suggestions to eat less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

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

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

” Another thing that seems 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.”.

The food system “is very complex”, Gill states, “however I do not think thats any reason for not really highlighting a few of those concerns right at the start”.

For example, the recommendation towards buying innovation lists alternative proteins as an essential location in need of research financing. Nevertheless, Springmann says, the alternative-protein market is already extremely well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

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

The suggestions “appear to be nearly sort of looking in reverse instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, tells Carbon Brief. She includes:.

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

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

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

” The sort of land that could provide the biggest ecological benefits is frequently not really agriculturally productive. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment design”, which makes every effort for a balance in 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 development to “produce a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would allow services 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 used abroad to produce food for the UK. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance expense”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

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

The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very same scale, shows how much land is used overseas to produce food for the UK. The combined land area for rearing beef and lamb for UK consumption is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Establishing the strategy will include gathering data on farming efficiency, top priority nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated locations. It will likewise build on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched previously this year– in order to determine the land best matched for nature repair..

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major function in lots of countries and companies net-zero targets, but a lot of these require the repurposing of agricultural land.

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

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually already indicated 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:.

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As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform a feat of balancings” in providing enough land to produce the necessary food, however likewise to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

” Globally, the most significant prospective carbon advantage of consuming less meat would not actually be the decrease in emissions, however the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

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

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

Lowering meat intake would also help relieve the strain on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the vast bulk of that land.

Total carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kg of numerous foodstuff. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance expense”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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