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

Recently, sequel of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was published, providing a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– an all-inclusive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and intake of food– in England..

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

The NFS is the culmination of more than two years worth of meetings and dialogues with industry leaders, academics, policymakers and the general public.

The first part of the method, published in July 2020, provided recommendations for the federal government to resolve food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly published second part has the mentioned goal of supplying a “thorough prepare for transforming the food system”..

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

The government has devoted to producing a white paper and proposals 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 a lot of the NFS propositions, according to the Guardian.

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home nations “food systems are so securely linked regarding be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “might in turn discover some useful concepts” in the method.

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

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

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

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

The NFS has certainly brought these concerns to the forefront, Edward Davey, the international engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief.

” The global food system is the single greatest factor to biodiversity loss, logging, dry spell, freshwater pollution and the collapse of aquatic wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to environment change, after the energy market.”.

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

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

Why is the food method essential for tackling climate change?

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

Research 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 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 limits around what counts as the food sector.).

Attempting to develop a healthier population while farming in a less destructive way needs collaboration throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

Under its dedications to the Paris Agreement, the UK has actually pledged to lower emissions from 1990 levels by 68% by 2030. The federal government has also set a lawfully 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 performance in the energy sector. Modifications due to farming have actually been negligible– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

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

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

” Without addressing the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to meet those environment change responsibilities [laid out by law] and to contribute to mitigating environment modification.”.

Nearly 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 actually caused a 3rd of total global warming since the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage of the 2008 emissions because sector. By 2018, emissions had lowered by 13%, but none of this change was due to improvements in agriculture. Total emissions reduced by 32% over that exact same time duration. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

What parts of the food strategy could make the most significant effect on climate modification?

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

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms really attend to the environment challenge … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector needs to do to attain the UK national targets?

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

The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment design”, 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 sized centres to spur development to “develop a much better food system”. Presenting compulsory reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies employing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would enable services and the federal government to assess their development on the goals laid out in the report.

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

Gill likewise notes that the report, while thorough, does not fully think about the unintentional consequences of its suggestions. For example, a much higher percentage of fresh fruits and veggies is squandered than meat. So the recommendations to consume less meat may increase the amount 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 changed.”.

The food system “is really complicated”, Gill states, “but I dont think thats any reason for not actually highlighting some of those concerns right at the start”.

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

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

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

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

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 options, Springmann states.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly require to attend to all type of concerns. And if you desire to resolve properly the environmental concerns, plus the health concerns, you actually need to deal with the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

For instance, the recommendation towards buying development lists alternative proteins as an essential location in need of research study funding. Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is currently really well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, shows how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. The combined land location for raising beef and lamb for UK usage is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

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

Developing the method will involve gathering data on agricultural productivity, priority nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted locations. It will also construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched earlier this year– in order to recognize the land finest fit for nature restoration..

Total carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kilogram of numerous food. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, implying the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

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

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

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Minimizing meat intake would also assist ease the pressure on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the huge bulk of that land.

The federal government has actually devoted to producing an action to the technique, consisting of propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next six months..

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a disaster”. The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment model”, which makes every effort 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 “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 enable businesses and the federal government to evaluate their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the 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 reveal the carbon “chance expense”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

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

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

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has estimated that just over 20% of agricultural 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:.

However, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has already shown his hesitancy to support some of the policy recommendations set out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, alerts Springmann:.

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

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform a feat of balancings” in offering sufficient land to produce the essential food, but likewise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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