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

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

Last week, sequel of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was released, providing a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– an all-encompassing term that covers the production, processing, transport and usage of food– in England..

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

The very first part of the method, published in July 2020, provided suggestions for the government to address food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly released 2nd part has actually the stated goal of supplying a “thorough strategy for changing the food system”..

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

” The global food system is the single greatest contributor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, drought, freshwater pollution and the collapse of aquatic wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to climate change, after the energy market.”.

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

This report by @food_strategy has some intriguing and far reaching ideas that would indicate a huge change for the better in our food system and make all of us much healthier. I hope that these strategies 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 wonder and a catastrophe”. While the existing food system is capable of feeding the “greatest international population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high environmental expense. The report notes:.

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

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

Davey adds that, in his view, “every country in the world would benefit from doing something of this kind”.

The NFS has actually certainly brought these issues to the forefront, Edward Davey, the worldwide engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief. He discusses:.

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home nations “food systems are so firmly linked as to remain in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn find some useful concepts” in the technique.

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

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

Why is the food method important for tackling environment modification?

Attempting to create a much healthier population while farming in a less harmful way needs cooperation throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

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

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

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

” Theres quite a lot of siloed thinking about the food system. So, from the point of view of integrated national policymaking that provides, its great.”.

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

Almost half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, including rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have caused a third of overall worldwide warming because the industrial transformation”, the report notes.

Research study suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the exact 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%, however various research studies draw various boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

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

Essentially 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 negligible– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

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

” The question 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 point of view of what the land sector requires to do to attain the UK national targets?

Davey calls the recommendations a “good starting point”. Nevertheless, he adds:.

Guaranteeing financing for agricultural payments till a minimum of 2029 at the existing level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the transition to sustainable farming. The report likewise states that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this should be “ring-fenced” for plans that motivate environment repair and carbon sequestration, such as peatland repair. Developing a “rural land usage structure” that will encourage on the very best manner in which any provided piece of land ought to be used– whether for nature, something, bioenergy or farming else. The proposed structure utilizes the “3 compartment model”, 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), in addition to smaller sized centres to spur development to “produce a better food system”. The funds would be focused on innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, among other locations. Minimizing meat intake by 30% over the next decade. The report stops brief of advising a tax on meat to achieve this objective (as it suggests for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Rather, it specifies, the government needs to go for “nudging consumers into altering their habits”. Introducing necessary 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 national food system data program, which would enable organizations and the government to assess their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The programme would include both the land-use data and the mandatory reporting data explained above. Bringing these two kinds of data together, the report composes, will assist “develop a clear, accessible and progressing photo of the effect our diet plan has on nature, environment and public health”.

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

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

Gill likewise keeps in mind that the report, while comprehensive, does not totally think about the unexpected effects of its suggestions. A much higher percentage of fresh fruits and veggies is squandered 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 really require to resolve all sort of problems. And if you desire to resolve properly the environmental issues, plus the health issues, you actually have to deal with the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

The commissioning of the report– it was led by business owner and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– means the report itself “shows a bit of a manipulated focus” towards business-focused options, Springmann says.

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

For instance, the recommendation towards purchasing innovation lists alternative proteins as an essential location in requirement of research study financing. Nevertheless, Springmann says, the alternative-protein market is already extremely strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

” There are already a lot of meat substitutes on the market and much more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet does not necessarily need to include processed meat options would have been very important, but that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

” 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 recommendations in the report] to come to fruition by which time the world might have changed.”.

The food system “is extremely intricate”, Gill states, “however I do not believe thats any excuse for not in fact highlighting a few of those concerns 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 includes:.

How does the food technique address the completing interests of agricultural land use and land use for carbon sequestration?

The report notes that with the best incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy could be mutually useful towards farmers and the environment. It specifies:.

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Nature-based solutions, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant role in many countries and companies net-zero targets, but a number of these need the repurposing of agricultural land.

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

However, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has currently indicated 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:.

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

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

The federal government has committed to producing an action to the technique, including proposals for brand-new legislation, within the next six months..

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

” The kind of land that might provide the biggest ecological advantages is typically not really agriculturally efficient. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a catastrophe”. The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment model”, which makes every effort 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 sized centres to stimulate development to “develop a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would allow companies and the federal government to examine their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, shows how much land is used 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 reveal the carbon “chance cost”, indicating the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

UK acreage divided up by purpose. About 70% is committed to farming, mainly livestock and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, demonstrates how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land usage occurs overseas. The combined acreage for rearing beef and lamb for UK usage is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of different food. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each product, 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 address these contending interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use strategy to best allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

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

Establishing the strategy will involve gathering information on agricultural productivity, priority nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated locations. It will also construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched previously this year– in order to identify the land best matched for nature restoration..

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

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