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

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

The first part of the method, released in July 2020, supplied suggestions for the federal government to address food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released second part has the stated objective of offering a “extensive prepare for transforming the food system”..

Recently, sequel of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was released, providing a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and consumption of food– in England..

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

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

The NFS has actually certainly brought these concerns to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the international 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 federal governments food policy in nearly three-quarters of a century.

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house nations “food systems are so firmly interwoven as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “may in turn discover some helpful ideas” in the strategy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is the food technique important for dealing with climate modification?

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, consisting of rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have actually caused a 3rd of overall worldwide warming given that the industrial transformation”, the report notes.

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

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

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

The food system has actually seen considerably smaller reductions 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 given that 2008, but food-related emissions have actually reduced by only 13% over the very same time..

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed believing about the food system. From the point of view of integrated national policymaking that delivers, its wonderful.”.

Trying to develop a much healthier population while farming in a less harmful way needs collaboration throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

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

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

Research recommends that the food system is responsible for about one-third of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about the same for the UK, Dr Marco Springmann, a population health scientist 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 different borders around what counts as the food sector.).

What parts of the food technique could make the biggest influence on environment change?

A number of the suggestions made in the report relate in some method to environment change or ecological sustainability. These recommendations consist of:.

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

The proposed structure utilizes the “three 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), as well as smaller centres to stimulate development to “produce a better food system”. Introducing compulsory reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies using more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would allow organizations and the government to assess their progress on the objectives laid out in the report.

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms actually address the climate challenge … I think the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the viewpoint of what the land sector needs to do to accomplish the UK nationwide targets? I dont understand. Its definitely a step in the right instructions, but theres most likely an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

What are the constraints of the food technique in dealing with environment change?

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

Gill likewise notes that the report, while extensive, does not totally consider the unintended repercussions of its recommendations. For instance, a much greater proportion of fresh vegetables and fruits is lost than meat. So the suggestions to consume less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you actually require to resolve all kinds of issues. And if you wish to address correctly the environmental concerns, plus the health issues, you really have to address the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

” 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 fruition by which time the world may have altered.”.

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

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

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

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

For example, the suggestion towards purchasing innovation lists alternative proteins as an essential area in requirement of research financing. Nevertheless, Springmann says, the alternative-protein market is currently very well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

” There are already plenty of meat substitutes on the market 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 plan doesnt necessarily require to include processed meat options would have been essential, but that was missed out on there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

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

The government has actually committed to producing a reaction to the technique, consisting of proposals for new legislation, within the next 6 months..

Nevertheless, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has currently suggested his hesitancy to support some of the policy recommendations laid out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, cautions Springmann:.

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

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

” The type of land that might provide the greatest ecological advantages is typically not very agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

Nature-based options, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are expected to play a significant role in lots of nations and business net-zero targets, however a number of these require the repurposing of farming land.

Minimizing meat intake would likewise help reduce the strain on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the huge majority of that land.

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Developing the technique will include gathering data on farming performance, concern nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated areas. It will likewise develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched earlier this year– in order to identify the land best fit for nature repair..

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a catastrophe”. The proposed framework utilizes the “3 compartment design”, which strives 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 “create a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would enable companies and the government to examine 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 indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance expense”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

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 accomplish net-zero by 2050. The NFS report states:.

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

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

The chart listed below demonstrate how all land in the UK is designated (left) and just how much overseas land is utilized to produce food for the UK (right).

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of different foodstuff. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance cost”, implying the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the same scale, reveals how much land is used overseas to produce food for the UK. The combined land area for rearing beef and lamb for UK usage is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.