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

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

Last week, sequel of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was released, 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 recommendations for the UK government to think about, consisting of financial incentives, reporting and trade standards and targets for long-lasting change in the food system..

The very first part of the method, published in July 2020, supplied recommendations for the federal government to address food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly released 2nd part has the stated goal of supplying a “detailed strategy for transforming the food system”..

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

The scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the house nations “food systems are so tightly interwoven as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “might in turn find some useful concepts” in the technique.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. While the current food system can feeding the “most significant global population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high ecological cost. The report notes:.

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 government in 2019 as the first independent review of the governments food policy in almost three-quarters of a century.

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

The NFS has certainly brought these issues to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the international engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief. He describes:.

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

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

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

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

This report by @food_strategy has some intriguing and far reaching concepts that would mean a huge change for the much better in our food system and make all of us 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.

Why is the food method important for taking on climate change?

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

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

Furthermore, essentially all of the gains made in the food sector have been because of cleaner energy and increased performance in the energy sector. Modifications due to agriculture have actually been minimal– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

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

Research recommends that the food system is accountable for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about the exact 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 research studies draw various borders around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

” Theres rather a lot of siloed thinking of the food system. So, from the perspective of integrated national policymaking that provides, its wonderful.”.

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

Almost half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, including rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have triggered a third of total international warming since the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

What parts of the food method could make the most significant impact on climate change?

Davey calls the recommendations a “excellent starting point”. However, he adds:.

Ensuring financing for farming payments until a minimum of 2029 at the present level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to aid in the transition to sustainable farming. The report likewise states that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this should be “ring-fenced” for schemes that motivate environment restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland restoration. Producing a “rural land use structure” that will recommend on the finest manner in which any provided piece of land must be used– whether for nature, agriculture, something or bioenergy else. The proposed structure utilizes the “3 compartment model”, which aims for 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), in addition to smaller sized centres to spur innovation to “produce a much better food system”. The funds would be targeted at innovating fruit and veggie production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, among other areas. Decreasing meat usage by 30% over the next decade. The report stops short of recommending a tax on meat to achieve this goal (as it advises for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Instead, it specifies, the government should go for “nudging consumers into altering their routines”. Introducing obligatory reporting on a range of metrics for food business using more than 250 individuals. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information program, which would enable organizations and the government to assess their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The program would include both the land-use data and the compulsory reporting information explained above. Bringing these 2 types of data together, the report writes, will help “create a clear, accessible and developing photo of the effect our diet plan has on nature, environment and public health”.

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms truly attend to the environment challenge … I think 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? I do not understand. Its certainly an action in the ideal instructions, however theres probably an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

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

What are the restrictions of the food strategy in resolving environment change?

” Another thing that seems to be missing out on 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 suggestions in the report] to come to fulfillment by which time the world might have changed.”.

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

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

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

The commissioning of the report– it was led by business person and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– implies the report itself “reveals a little bit of a skewed focus” towards business-focused options, Springmann states.

Gill also notes that the report, while comprehensive, does not totally think about the unexpected consequences of its suggestions. A much higher percentage of fresh fruits and veggies is squandered than meat. So the suggestions to eat less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

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

For instance, the suggestion towards buying development lists alternative proteins as an essential location in requirement of research study funding. However, Springmann says, the alternative-protein market is currently very well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

” There are already a lot of meat substitutes on the marketplace and much more so when you consider natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet does not necessarily require to consist of processed meat options would have been very important, however that was missed out on there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

Establishing the technique will involve gathering data on farming performance, concern nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated areas. It will likewise construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched previously this year– in order to recognize the land best fit for nature remediation..

The federal government has actually committed to producing an action to the technique, including propositions for new legislation, within the next 6 months..

Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of various food items. The teal bars show the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, meaning the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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The report notes that with the ideal rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique could be mutually beneficial towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

As a result, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out a task of balancings” in providing enough land to produce the essential food, however likewise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a miracle”. The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment model”, 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 spur innovation to “develop a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would enable companies and the federal government to assess their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the same scale, shows how much land is used overseas 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 “chance cost”, implying the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

Sharelines from this story.

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

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

” Implementation of any of those suggestions actually requires political will … The suggestions themselves could have been more progressive, but even the ones that exist do not appear to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

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

In order to address these competing interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use strategy to best allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

” The kind of land that could provide the greatest ecological advantages is frequently not very 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%.”.

Reducing meat intake would also assist minimize the strain on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the vast majority of that land.

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

UK acreage divided up by purpose. About 70% is committed to agriculture, mainly livestock and livestock feed and pasture. 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. About half of the overall land usage takes location overseas. The combined acreage for rearing beef and lamb for UK intake is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

” Globally, the greatest prospective carbon benefit of consuming less meat would not in fact be the decrease in emissions, but the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.