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

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

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

Recently, part two of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was released, supplying 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..

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

The first part of the strategy, released in July 2020, supplied recommendations for the federal government to deal with food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly released second part has actually the stated goal of providing a “extensive prepare for changing the food system”..

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a catastrophe”. 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:.

” The worldwide food system is the single biggest factor to biodiversity loss, logging, drought, freshwater contamination and the collapse of aquatic wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to climate change, after the energy market.”.

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

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

The scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home nations “food systems are so securely linked as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “may in turn discover some useful ideas” in the method.

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

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

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

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 all of us much healthier. I hope that these plans will be used up by this government. https://t.co/gl5rZJCrhO— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) July 15, 2021.

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

Why is the food strategy crucial for taking on environment change?

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are due to farming, consisting of rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have caused a third of total international warming given that the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

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

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

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a portion of the 2008 emissions in that sector. By 2018, emissions had decreased by 13%, however none of this modification was because of enhancements in farming. Total emissions reduced by 32% over that exact same time duration. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

In addition, essentially all of the gains made in the food sector have been due to cleaner energy and increased performance in the energy sector. Changes due to agriculture have actually been negligible– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

Attempting to produce a healthier population while farming in a less destructive way requires partnership across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He says:.

Research suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the very same for the UK, Dr Marco Springmann, a population health researcher 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 limits around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

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

Davey calls the suggestions a “excellent starting point”. He adds:.

” The question is how quickly will those reforms really address the environment obstacle … 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 attain the UK national targets?

The proposed framework uses the “three compartment design”, which makes every effort 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 much better food system”. Presenting obligatory reporting on a range of metrics for food companies using more than 250 people. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would enable businesses and the federal government to evaluate their progress on the objectives laid out in the report.

A lot of the suggestions made in the report relate in some way to environment change or environmental sustainability. These recommendations include:.

What are the limitations of the food technique in attending to climate change?

The recommendations “appear to be practically sort of looking backwards instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, tells Carbon Brief. She includes:.

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

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

The recommendation towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as a key area in requirement of research study funding. Nevertheless, Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is already really well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

Gill likewise keeps in mind that the report, while extensive, does not totally consider the unintentional effects of its recommendations. For example, a much greater percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables is wasted than meat. So the suggestions to eat less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

” 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 altered.”.

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

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

The food system “is extremely intricate”, Gill states, “but I dont believe thats any reason for not actually highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

How does the food method address the contending interests of farming land usage and land usage for carbon sequestration?

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

The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact 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 usage is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

” The kind of land that could provide the best environmental advantages is typically not very 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%.”.

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 (ideal).

The government has actually dedicated to producing an action to the method, consisting of proposals for new legislation, within the next six months..

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

Establishing the method will involve collecting information on farming performance, top priority nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated locations. It will likewise develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– released previously this year– in order to determine the land finest matched for nature remediation..

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has already shown 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:.

Total carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kg of numerous food. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance cost”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

Minimizing meat usage would likewise help alleviate the pressure on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the vast bulk of that land.

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

The report notes that with the right rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy could be equally helpful towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a disaster”. The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment design”, which makes every effort 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 centres to spur innovation to “develop a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would allow businesses and the government to examine their development on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, reveals how much land is utilized overseas 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 “opportunity expense”, implying the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

” Globally, the most significant prospective carbon advantage of eating less meat would not actually be the decrease in emissions, however the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

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

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