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

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

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

The very first part of the technique, published in July 2020, supplied recommendations for the government to address food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly released second part has the mentioned goal of supplying a “extensive plan 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 financial incentives, reporting and trade requirements and targets for long-term modification in the food system..

Last week, sequel of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was published, supplying a broad summary of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transport and intake of food– in England..

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

” The international food system is the single most significant factor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, drought, freshwater contamination and the collapse of aquatic wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to climate change, after the energy industry.”.

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

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

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

This report by @food_strategy has some fascinating and far reaching concepts that would suggest a big change for the much better in our food system and make us all 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.

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house countries “food systems are so tightly interwoven regarding remain in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn discover some beneficial concepts” in the technique.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a catastrophe”. While the existing food system is capable of feeding the “biggest worldwide population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high environmental expense. The report notes:.

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

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

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

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

” Without dealing with the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to fulfill those climate modification responsibilities [laid out by law] and to contribute to mitigating climate modification.”.

Practically all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been due to cleaner energy and increased effectiveness in the energy sector. Changes due to agriculture have been negligible– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

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

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

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

Nearly 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 caused a 3rd of total international warming because the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

Research study suggests that the food system is responsible for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the 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 studies draw various boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

Ensuring financing for farming payments until at least 2029 at the present level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to aid in the transition to sustainable farming. The report likewise states that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this must be “ring-fenced” for plans that encourage habitat restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland restoration. Creating a “rural land usage framework” that will advise on the best way that any provided piece of land should be utilized– whether for nature, bioenergy, farming or something else. The proposed structure utilizes the “3 compartment model”, 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 centres to stimulate innovation to “create a better food system”. The funds would be targeted at innovating fruit and veggie production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, among other locations. Lowering meat usage by 30% over the next decade. The report stops short of advising a tax on meat to achieve this goal (as it advises for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Instead, it states, the government needs to aim for “nudging consumers into changing their habits”. Presenting necessary reporting on a range of metrics for food business utilizing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would permit services and the government to examine their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The program would include both the land-use data and the compulsory reporting information explained above. Bringing these 2 kinds of data together, the report writes, will assist “create a clear, available and progressing image of the effect our diet has on nature, environment and public health”.

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

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms truly address the environment difficulty … I think the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector needs to do to achieve the UK national targets?

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

What are the restrictions of the food technique in attending to environment change?

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

” There are currently a lot of meat substitutes on the market and even more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet doesnt always need to consist of processed meat options would have been very important, however that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

” Another thing that seems to be missing out on 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 altered.”.

The food system “is extremely intricate”, Gill says, “however I do not believe thats any excuse for not really highlighting a few of those concerns right at the start”.

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

Gill likewise notes that the report, while extensive, does not fully consider the unintended effects of its suggestions. A much greater percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables is wasted than meat. So the recommendations to consume less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

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

For instance, the suggestion towards buying development lists alternative proteins as a key location in need of research 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 businessman and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– suggests the report itself “reveals a little bit of a manipulated focus” towards business-focused options, Springmann says.

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

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

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

Developing the strategy will include collecting information on farming efficiency, concern nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated locations. It will likewise develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched earlier this year– in order to determine the land best fit for nature restoration..

Minimizing meat intake would likewise help minimize the strain on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the vast majority of that land.

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

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment design”, 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 sized centres to stimulate development to “produce a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information program, which would allow organizations and the federal government to evaluate their progress on the objectives 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 show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance cost”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

” The type of land that could provide the best environmental benefits is often not very agriculturally productive. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

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

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out an accomplishment of acrobatics” in providing enough land to produce the essential food, however also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Overall carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kg of different foodstuff. The teal bars show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance cost”, meaning the amount 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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” Globally, the most significant potential carbon advantage of eating less meat would not actually be the reduction in emissions, but the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

In order to address these competing interests, the report requires a national land-use strategy to best assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

” Implementation of any of those recommendations really needs political will … The suggestions themselves could have been more progressive, however even the ones that exist dont appear to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are expected to play a significant role in many countries and companies net-zero targets, however a number of these require the repurposing of farming land.

The chart below programs that when the carbon sequestration “chance expense” (yellow bars) is contributed to the emissions of numerous food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost 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 cravings for tree saplings.

The report notes that with the ideal incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy could be equally beneficial towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

Nevertheless, 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, alerts Springmann:.

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