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

The first part of the technique, released in July 2020, provided recommendations for the government to attend to food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly released 2nd part has the stated goal of supplying a “extensive plan for changing the food system”..

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

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

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

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

Last week, part 2 of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was published, supplying a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transport and intake of food– in England..

What is the National Food Strategy?

Some have criticised the suggestion to tax wholesale sugar and salt as unjust or as disproportionately impacting lower-income families. Others state that the measures set 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 disaster and a wonder”. While the existing food system can feeding the “biggest worldwide population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high ecological expense. The report notes:.

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house countries “food systems are so firmly interwoven regarding remain in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “may in turn find some useful concepts” in the method.

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

However, the NFS has actually definitely brought these concerns to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the global engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief. He explains:.

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

” [The report] brings everybody around the table for a dialogue about what sort of system do we have, what sort of system do we want to bring, what are the trade-offs and could federal governments do things in a different way.”.

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

The response 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 in the world would benefit from doing something of this kind”.

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

Why is the food technique essential for tackling environment modification?

In addition, practically all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been because of cleaner energy and increased performance in the energy sector. Modifications due to farming have been negligible– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

” Theres rather a lot of siloed thinking of the food system. From the point of view of integrated national policymaking that provides, its fantastic.”.

Research study recommends that the food system is responsible for about one-third of international 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, tells Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, however various studies draw various limits around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

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

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

” 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 climate change.”.

Trying to produce a much healthier population while farming in a less harmful method needs collaboration across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

Almost half of all food-related emissions are because of agriculture, consisting of rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have actually caused a third of total international warming considering that the commercial transformation”, the report notes.

What parts of the food method could make the most significant impact on environment modification?

” The question is how quickly will those reforms truly deal with the climate obstacle … I think the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector requires to do to accomplish the UK national targets?

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

A number of the recommendations made in the report relate in some way to environment modification or environmental sustainability. These suggestions include:.

Guaranteeing funding for farming payments till at least 2029 at the current level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to aid in the shift to sustainable farming. The report likewise stipulates that at least ₤ 500m of this must be “ring-fenced” for schemes that encourage habitat repair and carbon sequestration, such as peatland repair. Developing a “rural land use framework” that will advise on the very best manner in which any given piece of land must be utilized– whether for nature, something, bioenergy or farming else. The proposed structure uses the “three compartment design”, which pursues 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 stimulate development to “produce a better food system”. The funds would be intended at innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, amongst other areas. Lowering meat intake by 30% over the next years. The report stops brief of suggesting a tax on meat to accomplish this goal (as it recommends for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Instead, it specifies, the federal government should intend for “nudging consumers into altering their habits”. Introducing mandatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies employing more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information programme, which would allow companies and the federal government to examine their development on the objectives set out in the report. The programme would include both the land-use data and the mandatory reporting information explained above. Bringing these 2 kinds of information together, the report composes, will help “create a clear, available and evolving photo of the impact our diet plan has on nature, environment and public health”.

What are the limitations of the food method in attending to climate modification?

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

” There are already plenty of meat replaces on the market and much more so when you consider natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet does not always require to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been essential, but that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly require to address all sort of concerns. And if you wish to deal with appropriately the environmental concerns, plus the health issues, you really need to address the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

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

The recommendation towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as an essential location in need of research funding. Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is already very strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

The food system “is very complex”, Gill says, “but I dont believe thats any reason for not really highlighting some of those concerns right at the start”.

” 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 transformation 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 report likewise “truly shied” away from taking a strong position on minimizing meat intake, Springmann states, with influence on both the environment and public health. He says:.

Gill likewise notes that the report, while thorough, does not fully think about the unintended repercussions of its suggestions. For instance, a much higher proportion of fresh vegetables and fruits is squandered than meat. So the recommendations to consume less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

How does the food method address the completing interests of farming land use and land use for carbon sequestration?

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 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 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 services and the federal government to evaluate their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, reveals 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 “opportunity expense”, implying the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

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

The report keeps in mind that with the ideal rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy might be equally beneficial towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

Establishing the strategy will involve gathering information on agricultural efficiency, priority nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted locations. It will also develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– released earlier this year– in order to determine the land finest suited for nature remediation..

The chart listed 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 (right).

In order to resolve these competing interests, the report requires a national land-use method to best assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

Nature-based options, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant function in numerous countries and business net-zero targets, however a number of these require the repurposing of agricultural land.

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

As a result, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out a feat of acrobatics” in providing sufficient land to produce the needed food, but likewise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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

” Globally, the biggest possible carbon advantage of consuming less meat would not really be the decrease in emissions, however the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

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” The type of land that could provide the biggest environmental advantages is typically not really agriculturally productive. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

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

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

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Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of various food items. The teal bars show the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance cost”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The federal government has dedicated to producing a response to the strategy, consisting of propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next six months..

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