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

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

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

The government has actually committed to producing a white paper and proposals for future laws in response within the next six 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.

The very first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, supplied suggestions for the government to deal with food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released second part has the mentioned objective of supplying a “comprehensive strategy for transforming the food system”..

Recently, part two of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was published, supplying a broad summary of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transport and consumption of food– in England..

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 steps 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 catastrophe and a miracle”. While the current 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:.

This report by @food_strategy has some intriguing and far reaching concepts that would mean a huge modification for the much better in our food system and make us all much healthier. I hope that these strategies will be used up by this federal government. https://t.co/gl5rZJCrhO— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) July 15, 2021.

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

Why is the food technique crucial for dealing with environment change?

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, consisting of rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have actually caused a 3rd of total worldwide warming because the commercial transformation”, the report notes.

Research study suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of international 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 different studies draw different boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

Under its commitments to the Paris Agreement, the UK has actually promised to decrease emissions from 1990 levels by 68% by 2030. The federal government has actually also set a lawfully binding target to achieve 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 lowered by 13%, however none of this change was due to improvements in farming. General emissions decreased by 32% over that same time period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Other major factors to the emissions include transport, fertiliser and food manufacturing and product packaging..

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

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed considering the food system. So, from the perspective of integrated nationwide policymaking that delivers, its fantastic.”.

The food system has seen substantially smaller decreases in sector-wide emissions considering 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 actually decreased by just 13% over the very same time..

What parts of the food technique could make the most significant effect on environment change?

Guaranteeing funding for agricultural payments until at least 2029 at the present level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to assist in the transition to sustainable farming. The report also specifies that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this must be “ring-fenced” for schemes that motivate habitat restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland remediation. Creating a “rural land use framework” that will advise on the finest way that any given piece of land should be utilized– whether for nature, something, agriculture or bioenergy else. The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment model”, which pursues a balance 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 “produce a much better food system”. The funds would be targeted at innovating fruit and veggie production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, amongst other areas. Minimizing meat usage by 30% over the next decade. The report stops short of suggesting a tax on meat to attain this goal (as it suggests for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Rather, it mentions, the government needs to intend for “nudging customers into changing their routines”. Introducing mandatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies employing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would enable businesses and the federal government to examine their progress on the goals set out in the report. The programme would include both the land-use information and the mandatory reporting information described above. Bringing these 2 types of data together, the report writes, will help “produce a clear, available and progressing image of the impact our diet plan has on nature, climate and public health”.

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms really resolve the environment difficulty … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the perspective of what the land sector needs to do to accomplish the UK national targets? I dont know. Its definitely an action in the ideal instructions, but theres probably an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

Numerous of the suggestions made in the report relate in some method to environment change or environmental sustainability. These recommendations include:.

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

What are the constraints of the food strategy in resolving climate change?

The suggestions “seem to be practically sort of looking in reverse rather than looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen and chair of the Scottish Science Advisory Council, informs Carbon Brief. She adds:.

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

Gill likewise keeps in mind that the report, while comprehensive, does not completely consider the unexpected repercussions of its suggestions. A much greater proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is squandered than meat. The recommendations to consume less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

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

” There are currently plenty of meat replaces on the marketplace and even 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 does not necessarily require to include processed meat options would have been very important, but that was missed out on there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

The recommendation towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as an essential location in requirement of research funding. Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is already really well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

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

” Another thing that appears 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 fulfillment by which time the world might have changed.”.

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

UK acreage divided up by function. About 70% is devoted to farming, primarily animals and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, shows how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land use occurs overseas. The combined land location for raising beef and lamb for UK consumption is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

In order to resolve these contending interests, the report requires a national land-use technique to best allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

Sharelines from this story.

” Globally, the most significant 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.”.

” The sort of land that might deliver the best ecological advantages is often not extremely agriculturally productive. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are expected to play a major role in numerous countries and business net-zero targets, however a lot of these require the repurposing of farming land.

Nevertheless, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually already suggested 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 chart listed below demonstrate how all land in the UK is assigned (left) and just how much overseas land is utilized to produce food for the UK (best).

Lowering meat intake would also help relieve the stress 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 huge bulk of that land.

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a miracle”. The proposed framework 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 centres to stimulate innovation to “develop 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 government to assess their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, shows how much land is utilized 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 cost”, implying the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

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

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As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform a feat of balancings” in providing enough land to produce the necessary food, but likewise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

” Implementation of any of those suggestions actually requires political will … The recommendations themselves could have been more progressive, but even the ones that are there dont seem to resonate very much with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

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

Developing the strategy will include collecting information on agricultural performance, concern nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated areas. It will also develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched previously this year– in order to recognize the land finest fit for nature restoration..

The report keeps in mind that with the best rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy could be mutually beneficial towards farmers and the environment. It specifies:.

The chart below programs that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity expense” (yellow bars) is added to the emissions of numerous food groups (teal bars), the carbon expense of lamb and goat meat actually surpasses that of beef, due to the large amounts of land needed to graze those animals and their hunger for tree saplings.