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 align– or do not align– with the UKs climate targets and decarbonisation goals.

Recently, part 2 of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was published, offering a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– an all-encompassing term that covers the production, processing, transportation and usage of food– in England..

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

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

The very first part of the method, released in July 2020, provided suggestions for the government to address food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly released second part has actually the specified objective of offering a “extensive plan for changing the food system”..

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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 find some useful ideas” in the strategy.

This report by @food_strategy has some fascinating and far reaching concepts that would mean a huge 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 government. https://t.co/gl5rZJCrhO— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) July 15, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

Its aim was to supply a roadmap for changing the food system from its present state to one that is healthier for the world and the population..

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

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

Why is the food method crucial for tackling climate modification?

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a portion of the 2008 emissions because sector. By 2018, emissions had decreased by 13%, but none of this change was due to improvements in farming. Total emissions decreased by 32% over that same period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are due to farming, including rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have triggered a 3rd of overall worldwide warming considering that the commercial transformation”, the report notes.

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

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

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

” Theres quite a lot of siloed thinking of the food system. So, from the viewpoint of integrated nationwide policymaking that provides, its great.”.

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

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

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

What parts of the food strategy could make the greatest impact on climate change?

The proposed framework utilizes the “3 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 “create a much better food system”. Introducing mandatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies 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 government to evaluate their development on the goals laid out in the report.

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms actually address the environment difficulty … I think the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the viewpoint of what the land sector requires to do to achieve the UK national targets? I dont know. Its definitely a step in the ideal instructions, but theres probably an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

Davey calls the suggestions a “excellent starting point”. Nevertheless, he includes:.

Much of the recommendations made in the report relate in some way to climate change or ecological sustainability. These suggestions consist of:.

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

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

Gill also notes that the report, while thorough, does not fully consider the unintended effects of its suggestions. A much higher proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is wasted than meat. The recommendations to consume less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

” Another thing that appears to be missing out on 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 report also “really shied” far from taking a strong position on minimizing meat consumption, Springmann states, with effect on both the environment and public health. He states:.

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

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

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

For example, the suggestion towards purchasing innovation lists alternative proteins as a crucial area in need of research study financing. Nevertheless, Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is already extremely well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

” There are already a lot of meat substitutes on the market and a lot more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet does not necessarily need to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been very important, however that was missed out on there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

How does the food strategy address the contending interests of agricultural land usage and land usage for carbon sequestration?

However, 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, cautions Springmann:.

” Implementation of any of those recommendations actually needs political will … The recommendations themselves could have been more progressive, however even the ones that exist do not seem to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

The report keeps in mind that with the right rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the method might be equally advantageous towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

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 raising beef and lamb for UK intake is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

As a result, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out an accomplishment of balancings” in providing sufficient land to produce the required food, however likewise to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually approximated that simply 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:.

Establishing the technique will involve gathering data on agricultural productivity, top priority nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted areas. It will likewise construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– released earlier this year– in order to recognize the land best matched for nature repair..

In order to address these contending interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use strategy to best allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

The chart listed below programs that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity cost” (yellow bars) is included to the emissions of various food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost 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 cravings for tree saplings.

Lowering meat usage would likewise help reduce the strain 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 large bulk of that land.

Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of various foodstuff. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance cost”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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The chart below shows how all land in the UK is designated (left) and just how much overseas land is utilized to produce food for the UK (ideal).

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a miracle”. The proposed framework uses the “three compartment model”, which aims 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 stimulate development to “produce a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data programme, which would enable businesses and the government to assess their progress 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 show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, suggesting the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

Sharelines from this story.

” Globally, the greatest 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.”.

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are expected to play a significant function in lots of nations and companies net-zero targets, however a lot of these require the repurposing of farming land.

” The sort of land that might deliver the biggest ecological benefits is typically not extremely agriculturally productive. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.