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

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

The NFS is the conclusion of more than 2 years worth of conferences and discussions with industry leaders, academics, policymakers and the public.

The federal government has actually devoted to producing a white paper and propositions for future laws in response within the next 6 months, although the early action from UK prime minister Boris Johnson has been “noncommittal” to much of the NFS propositions, according to the Guardian.

The very first part of the technique, released in July 2020, supplied suggestions for the federal government to deal with food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released second part has actually the mentioned objective of supplying a “comprehensive prepare for changing the food system”..

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, lays out 14 suggestions for the UK government to consider, including monetary incentives, reporting and trade standards and targets for long-term modification in the food system..

Recently, part two of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was published, providing a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transport and intake of food– in England..

What is the National Food Strategy?

” The international food system is the single greatest factor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, drought, freshwater pollution and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to environment change, after the energy market.”.

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

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

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

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

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

The scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the house nations “food systems are so firmly linked as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “might in turn find some beneficial ideas” in the method.

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

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

Davey includes that, in his view, “every nation in the world would take advantage of doing something of this kind”.

Why is the food technique important for tackling climate change?

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

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

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

Trying to develop a much healthier population while farming in a less harmful way needs partnership throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

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

” Theres rather a lot of siloed thinking of the food system. From the point of view of integrated national policymaking that provides, its fantastic.”.

Under its dedications to the Paris Agreement, the UK has vowed to decrease emissions from 1990 levels by 68% by 2030. The federal government has actually likewise set a legally binding target to attain net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Springmann states:.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage of the 2008 emissions in that sector. By 2018, emissions had actually reduced by 13%, however none of this modification was because of improvements in farming. Overall emissions reduced by 32% over that exact same period. 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. Changes due to farming have been negligible– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

Research suggests that the food system is responsible for about one-third of international greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about the exact 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 various studies draw different limits around what counts as the food sector.).

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

Davey calls the suggestions a “good starting point”. However, he includes:.

Guaranteeing funding for farming payments up until a minimum of 2029 at the existing level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to assist in the shift to sustainable farming. The report likewise states that at least ₤ 500m of this should be “ring-fenced” for schemes that encourage habitat repair and carbon sequestration, such as peatland restoration. Creating a “rural land use structure” that will advise on the very best method that any given piece of land ought to be used– whether for nature, something, bioenergy or agriculture else. 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”. The funds would be focused on innovating fruit and vegetable production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, among other locations. Minimizing meat intake by 30% over the next decade. The report stops brief of recommending a tax on meat to accomplish this aim (as it suggests for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Rather, it specifies, the federal government should intend for “nudging consumers into changing their routines”. Introducing obligatory reporting on a range of metrics for food business using more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data programme, which would permit businesses and the federal government to assess their development on the goals laid out in the report. The programme would consist of both the land-use data and the compulsory reporting information described above. Bringing these two types of data together, the report composes, will help “create a clear, accessible and evolving photo of the impact our diet plan has on nature, climate and public health”.

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

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms really attend to the climate obstacle … 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 achieve the UK national targets?

What are the constraints of the food strategy in dealing with environment change?

The recommendations “seem to be practically sort of looking backwards rather than looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, informs Carbon Brief. She adds:.

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

” There are currently lots of meat substitutes on the market and much more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more plainly that sustainable and healthy diet does not always require to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been necessary, but that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you actually require to resolve all kinds of concerns. And if you want to deal with appropriately the environmental concerns, plus the health issues, you really need to resolve the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

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

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

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

” Another thing that appears to be missing is that foresighting, wheres the world going to from other sectors … Theres going to be a transformation 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.”.

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while thorough, does not fully think about the unexpected consequences of its suggestions. A much greater proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is squandered than meat. The recommendations to eat less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

The recommendation towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as an essential area in requirement of research study funding. Springmann says, the alternative-protein market is already extremely well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

How does the food method address the competing interests of agricultural land usage and land use for carbon sequestration?

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In order to address these contending interests, the report calls for a national land-use technique to finest designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a disaster”. The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment model”, which aims 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 sized centres to spur innovation to “create a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would allow organizations and the government to assess their development on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using 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 item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance expense”, suggesting the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

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

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

” Implementation of any of those recommendations truly requires political will … The suggestions themselves might have been more progressive, but even the ones that are there dont appear to resonate extremely much with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

The chart below shows 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 in fact goes beyond that of beef, due to the big quantities of land required to graze those animals and their appetite for tree saplings.

The chart 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 (right).

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to perform an accomplishment of balancings” in supplying adequate land to produce the required food, but also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Total carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kg of various food products. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

The government has committed to producing an action to the method, including proposals for new legislation, within the next six months..

Establishing the method will involve gathering information on agricultural performance, concern nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted locations. It will also build on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched previously this year– in order to recognize the land best matched for nature remediation..

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

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Minimizing meat intake would likewise assist ease the pressure on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the large bulk of that land.

Nature-based services, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant function in numerous countries and business net-zero targets, but many of these need the repurposing of farming land.

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

” The type of land that might provide the biggest environmental benefits is typically 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%.”.