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

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

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

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

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, sets out 14 suggestions for the UK government to think about, including financial rewards, reporting and trade standards and targets for long-term change in the food system..

The very first part of the technique, released in July 2020, supplied recommendations for the federal government to attend to food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published second part has actually the stated goal of offering a “thorough prepare for changing the food system”..

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

” The international food system is the single biggest 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 market.”.

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

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

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

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

Why is the food technique essential for tackling climate modification?

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

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

Attempting to create a much healthier population while farming in a less destructive way requires collaboration throughout disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He says:.

In addition, practically all of the gains made in the food sector have been because of cleaner energy and increased efficiency in the energy sector. Modifications due to farming have been minimal– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

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

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

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

Under its commitments to the Paris Agreement, the UK has actually pledged to lower 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:.

Research suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of international greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about the 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%, but various studies draw various borders around what counts as the food sector.).

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

What parts of the food strategy could make the most significant effect on climate change?

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

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms truly address the environment challenge … I believe 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 nationwide targets?

The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment design”, which strives for 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), as well as smaller sized centres to stimulate development to “create a better food system”. Introducing obligatory 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 data program, which would enable services and the federal government to evaluate their progress on the goals laid out in the report.

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

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

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

” There are already plenty of meat replaces on the marketplace and much more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet plan does not always require to include processed meat alternatives would have been essential, but that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

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

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

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

” Another thing that seems to be missing 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 might have altered.”.

For example, the recommendation towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in requirement of research financing. However, Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is already really well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while extensive, does not totally think about the unintended consequences of its recommendations. A much greater proportion of fresh fruits and veggies is wasted than meat. So the suggestions to consume less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

The food system “is very intricate”, Gill states, “however I do not think thats any excuse for not really highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a miracle”. The proposed structure uses the “three compartment design”, which strives 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 innovation to “develop a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would allow businesses and the federal government to examine their development on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, reveals how much land is utilized abroad 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 utilized to produce that food.

The chart listed below shows that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity cost” (yellow bars) is contributed to the emissions of numerous food groups (teal bars), the carbon expense of lamb and goat meat really exceeds that of beef, due to the large amounts of land required to graze those animals and their hunger for tree saplings.

Reducing meat consumption would likewise assist alleviate the strain 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 large majority of that land.

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The chart listed below shows how all land in the UK is allocated (left) and just how much abroad land is used to produce food for the UK (ideal).

Developing the technique will involve collecting information on farming productivity, priority nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated areas. It will likewise develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– released earlier this year– in order to determine the land finest suited for nature restoration..

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

” The sort of land that could provide the greatest environmental advantages is often not very agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

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In order to address these contending interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use technique to finest assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

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

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

The report keeps in mind that with the best incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique might be mutually useful towards farmers and the environment. It specifies:.

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out a feat of acrobatics” in offering sufficient land to produce the essential food, but also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has currently shown his hesitancy to support some of the policy suggestions set out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, alerts Springmann:.

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

The right-hand side of the chart, using the very same scale, shows 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 bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Overall carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kilogram of various food products. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity expense”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The federal government has devoted to producing a response to the technique, consisting of proposals for new legislation, within the next 6 months..