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

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

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

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

Recently, part two of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was released, offering a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– an all-inclusive term that covers the production, processing, transport and intake of food– in England..

The very first part of the strategy, released in July 2020, offered recommendations for the federal government to resolve food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released second part has actually the specified objective of providing a “comprehensive plan for changing the food system”..

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

This report by @food_strategy has some fascinating and far reaching ideas that would imply a big change for the much 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.

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

” [The report] brings everyone around the table for a discussion about what kind of system do we have, what sort of system do we want to bring, what are the trade-offs and could governments do things in a different way.”.

Some have actually criticised the recommendation to tax wholesale sugar and salt as unreasonable or as disproportionately impacting lower-income families. Others say that the measures 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 miracle and a catastrophe”. While the current food system can feeding the “greatest worldwide population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high environmental cost. The report notes:.

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

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

Nevertheless, the NFS has definitely brought these concerns to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the global engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief. He discusses:.

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home countries “food systems are so securely interwoven regarding remain in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn discover some useful concepts” in the strategy.

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

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

Why is the food strategy important for tackling climate modification?

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

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

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

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

Research study recommends that the food system is accountable for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about the very same for the UK, Dr Marco Springmann, a population health scientist at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, tells Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, however various research studies draw different borders around what counts as the food sector.).

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

Additionally, 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 agriculture have actually been minimal– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

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

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

Other major contributors to the emissions consist of fertiliser, transport and food production and product packaging..

What parts of the food technique could make the most significant influence on climate modification?

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

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms truly attend to the environment challenge … I think 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 accomplish the UK national targets?

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

Ensuring funding for agricultural payments until at least 2029 at the existing level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to assist in the transition to sustainable farming. The report also specifies that at least ₤ 500m of this ought to be “ring-fenced” for plans that motivate habitat restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland remediation. Producing a “rural land use structure” that will recommend on the finest manner in which any offered piece of land should be used– whether for nature, bioenergy, something or agriculture else. The proposed framework uses 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), in addition to smaller centres to stimulate innovation to “create a much better food system”. The funds would be targeted at innovating fruit and vegetable production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few locations. Lowering meat consumption by 30% over the next years. The report stops brief of suggesting a tax on meat to achieve this aim (as it advises for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Instead, it mentions, the government ought to go for “nudging customers into altering their practices”. Introducing necessary reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies utilizing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information program, which would allow organizations and the federal government to assess their development on the goals set out in the report. The programme would consist of both the land-use data and the necessary reporting data explained above. Bringing these 2 kinds of data together, the report writes, will assist “produce a clear, accessible and developing image of the impact our diet plan has on nature, climate and public health”.

What are the limitations of the food method in resolving environment modification?

” There are already lots of meat substitutes on the marketplace and much 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 plan doesnt always require to include processed meat alternatives would have been essential, but that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

Gill likewise keeps in mind that the report, while thorough, does not completely consider the unexpected effects of its recommendations. A much greater proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is lost than meat. So the suggestions to eat less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

The food system “is really intricate”, Gill says, “but I do not think thats any excuse for not actually highlighting a few of those issues right at the start”.

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

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

For instance, the suggestion towards purchasing innovation lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in need of research financing. However, Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is currently really strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

The commissioning of the report– it was led by business owner and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– implies the report itself “shows a little bit of a manipulated focus” towards business-focused solutions, Springmann 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 fulfillment by which time the world may have changed.”.

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

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

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

The federal government has committed to producing a reaction to the technique, consisting of proposals for new legislation, within the next six months..

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform a task of acrobatics” in offering enough land to produce the essential food, but also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. 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 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 permit businesses and the federal government to examine 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 used 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 show the carbon “chance expense”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

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

Establishing the strategy will include gathering data on farming productivity, top priority nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated areas. It will likewise construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– released earlier this year– in order to determine the land best fit for nature repair..

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

UK acreage divided up by purpose. About 70% is devoted to agriculture, mainly livestock and animals feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, demonstrates how much land is utilized abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land use happens overseas. The combined acreage for raising beef and lamb for UK consumption is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

” The type of land that might deliver the greatest ecological advantages is frequently not extremely 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%.”.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually currently 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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In order to attend to these completing interests, the report calls for a national land-use technique to finest designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

” Globally, the biggest possible carbon advantage of consuming less meat would not in fact be the reduction in emissions, however the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

Overall carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kg of different food. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, indicating the quantity 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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Reducing meat intake would also help reduce the strain on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the large majority of that land.

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually approximated that simply over 20% of agricultural land need to be rewilded or transformed to bioenergy or other, non-agricultural crops in order to attain net-zero by 2050. The NFS report states:.

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

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

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