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

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

The very first part of the technique, published in July 2020, provided recommendations for the federal government to address food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly published second part has actually the specified goal of offering a “comprehensive plan for changing the food system”..

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

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

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

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

” The international food system is the single greatest factor to biodiversity loss, logging, dry spell, freshwater pollution and the collapse of marine wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to climate change, after the energy industry.”.

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

The scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the house countries “food systems are so securely linked as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “might in turn discover some helpful concepts” in the technique.

Davey adds that, in his view, “every country worldwide would gain from doing something of this kind”.

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

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

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

Why is the food technique crucial for dealing with climate change?

Trying to develop a much healthier population while farming in a less destructive method requires partnership throughout disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

Research suggests 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 scientist at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, informs Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, however different research studies draw various boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, including rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have actually caused a 3rd of overall international warming given that the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

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

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

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

” Theres rather a lot of siloed thinking of the food system. From the point of view of integrated nationwide policymaking that delivers, its great.”.

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

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a portion of the 2008 emissions in that sector. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Virtually all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been due to cleaner energy and increased efficiency in the energy sector. Modifications due to agriculture have been minimal– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

What parts of the food technique could make the most significant effect on environment modification?

Davey calls the recommendations a “excellent starting point”. Nevertheless, he adds:.

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms actually resolve 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 requires to do to achieve the UK national targets? I dont understand. Its certainly an action in the ideal direction, but theres most likely an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

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

The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment design”, which aims for a balance 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 better food system”. Presenting mandatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food business using more than 250 individuals. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data programme, which would allow services and the government to examine their progress on the goals laid out in the report.

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

The suggestion towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in need of research funding. However, Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is already very strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

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

The suggestions “seem to be nearly sort of looking in reverse instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen and chair of the Scottish Science Advisory Council, tells Carbon Brief. She includes:.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you actually need to address all kinds of problems. And if you want to resolve properly the environmental concerns, plus the health concerns, you truly need to address the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

” There are already plenty of meat replaces on the marketplace and even more so when you consider natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more plainly that healthy and sustainable diet doesnt always require to consist of processed meat options would have been essential, but that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while comprehensive, does not totally think about the unintentional repercussions of its recommendations. A much greater proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is squandered than meat. The suggestions to eat less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

The food system “is very complex”, Gill states, “however I do not believe thats any reason for not actually highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

” 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 fruition by which time the world may have changed.”.

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

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

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

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As a result, the report says, the food system is being “asked to perform a task of acrobatics” in offering adequate land to produce the necessary food, but also to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

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

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

Reducing meat intake would also assist relieve the stress on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the vast majority of that land.

Establishing the method will involve collecting data on agricultural performance, top priority nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted areas. It will also build on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched earlier this year– in order to identify the land best matched for nature repair..

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a miracle”. The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment model”, which aims 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 stimulate innovation to “develop a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would enable organizations and the federal government to assess 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 utilized abroad to produce food for the UK. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, implying the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

Nature-based services, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are expected to play a significant function in many countries and business net-zero targets, however much of these need the repurposing of farming land.

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

In order to resolve these competing interests, the report calls for a national land-use strategy to finest assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

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

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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 achieve net-zero by 2050. The NFS report states:.

” Implementation of any of those recommendations actually requires political will … The recommendations themselves might have been more progressive, but even the ones that are there do not seem to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

The report notes that with the ideal rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique might be equally helpful towards farmers and the environment. It specifies:.

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

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

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