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

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 modification in the food system..

The government has actually devoted 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 actually been “noncommittal” to a lot of the NFS propositions, according to the Guardian.

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

Recently, sequel of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was released, providing 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 first part of the method, released in July 2020, supplied recommendations for the government to address food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published second part has the mentioned goal of offering a “extensive strategy for transforming the food system”..

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

” The worldwide food system is the single biggest contributor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, dry spell, freshwater pollution and the collapse of aquatic wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment change, after the energy market.”.

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

The response 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 concepts that would imply a big modification for the better in our food system and make all of us healthier. I hope that these plans will be taken up by this 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 nations “food systems are so tightly linked as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn discover some helpful concepts” in the method.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a miracle”. While the existing food system can feeding the “most significant worldwide population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high ecological expense. The report notes:.

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

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

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

Some have criticised the suggestion to tax wholesale sugar and salt as unjust or as disproportionately impacting lower-income households. Others say that the steps laid out in the report do not go far enough towards making the food system more sustainable.

Why is the food strategy important for tackling climate change?

Research recommends that the food system is accountable for about one-third of international 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%, but various studies draw various borders around what counts as the food sector.).

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage of the 2008 emissions in that sector. By 2018, emissions had decreased by 13%, however none of this modification was due to enhancements in farming. Total emissions reduced by 32% over that very 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 contribute to mitigating climate modification.”.

Attempting to create a healthier population while farming in a less damaging method requires collaboration across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

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

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have triggered a third of total worldwide warming since the industrial transformation”, the report notes.

Virtually 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 farming have been negligible– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

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

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

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

What parts of the food strategy could make the greatest influence on environment change?

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

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms truly attend to the climate challenge … I think the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the perspective of what the land sector requires to do to attain the UK nationwide targets? I dont know. Its definitely a step in the best direction, however theres most likely an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

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

Guaranteeing financing for farming payments until a minimum of 2029 at the current level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the shift to sustainable farming. The report also states that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this must be “ring-fenced” for plans that motivate habitat remediation and carbon sequestration, such as peatland repair. Creating a “rural land usage structure” that will recommend on the very best manner in which any given piece of land should be utilized– whether for nature, something, farming or bioenergy else. The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment design”, which strives 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 centres to spur development to “create a better food system”. The funds would be focused on innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, among other areas. Decreasing meat usage by 30% over the next years. The report stops brief of advising a tax on meat to attain this aim (as it advises for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Instead, it states, the federal government must intend for “nudging consumers into altering their routines”. Introducing compulsory reporting on a range of metrics for food business 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 goals set out in the report. The programme would consist of both the land-use information and the obligatory reporting data explained above. Bringing these 2 types of information together, the report writes, will help “develop a clear, accessible and progressing photo of the impact our diet plan has on nature, environment and public health”.

What are the limitations of the food strategy in addressing climate change?

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

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

The suggestions “appear to be almost sort of looking in reverse instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, tells Carbon Brief. She adds:.

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

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly need to resolve all type of concerns. And if you wish to attend to effectively the environmental issues, plus the health issues, you actually need to attend to the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while comprehensive, does not totally think about the unintentional consequences of its recommendations. A much greater percentage of fresh fruits and veggies is lost than meat. The suggestions to eat less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

The recommendation towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as an essential area in need of research funding. Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is already extremely well-developed. He tells Carbon Brief:.

” 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 altered.”.

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

The report likewise “really shied” far from taking a strong position on decreasing meat consumption, Springmann says, with effect on both the environment and public health. He states:.

How does the food strategy address the contending interests of farming land use and land use for carbon sequestration?

Developing the strategy will involve collecting information on agricultural efficiency, top priority nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated locations. It will also build on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– released earlier this year– in order to recognize the land best matched for nature remediation..

In order to resolve these completing interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use strategy to best designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

UK acreage divided up by function. About 70% is committed to agriculture, generally animals and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, demonstrates how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land use happens overseas. The combined acreage for rearing beef and lamb for UK intake is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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However, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has currently indicated his hesitancy to support a few of the policy recommendations set out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, cautions Springmann:.

The chart below shows that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity cost” (yellow bars) is contributed 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 needed to graze those animals and their hunger for tree saplings.

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

The chart listed 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 (right).

The report notes that with the right incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the method might be mutually useful towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

Total carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kg of different food. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, 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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As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform a feat of balancings” in providing adequate land to produce the needed food, however likewise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

” Implementation of any of those recommendations truly needs political will … The suggestions themselves could have been more progressive, but even the ones that are there do not appear to resonate very much with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

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

” Globally, the biggest possible carbon benefit of eating less meat would not really be the reduction in emissions, however the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

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

Decreasing meat consumption would also assist minimize the pressure on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the large majority of that land.

” The type of land that might deliver the best ecological advantages is typically not really agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a catastrophe”. The proposed framework utilizes the “3 compartment model”, which makes every effort for a balance in 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 development to “produce a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would permit companies and the federal government to assess their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the very same scale, shows how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity expense”, indicating the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.