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

The first part of the method, published in July 2020, provided recommendations for the government to deal with food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly published second part has the specified objective of providing a “comprehensive plan for changing the food system”..

Recently, part two of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was published, providing a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– an all-encompassing term that covers the production, processing, transportation and usage of food– in England..

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

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

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house countries “food systems are so tightly linked as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “may in turn find some beneficial ideas” in the strategy.

This report by @food_strategy has some interesting and far reaching concepts that would indicate a huge modification for the better in our food system and make us all 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 miracle and a disaster”. While the current food system is capable of feeding the “most significant worldwide population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high environmental expense. The report notes:.

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

Its goal was to supply a roadmap for changing the food system from its present state to one that is healthier for the world and the population..

Davey adds that, in his view, “every nation worldwide would take advantage of doing something of this kind”.

” The worldwide food system is the single most significant factor 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 market.”.

The NFS has actually certainly brought these concerns to the forefront, Edward Davey, the international engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief. He explains:.

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

The response to last weeks release saw members of parliament, celebrity chefs and even rockstars weighing in on its significance.

Why is the food strategy important for tackling environment modification?

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

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a portion of the 2008 emissions because sector. By 2018, emissions had actually reduced by 13%, however none of this change was because of enhancements in farming. Overall emissions decreased by 32% over that exact same period. 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 effectiveness in the energy sector. Modifications due to farming have actually been negligible– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

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

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

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

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

Research study suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about the very 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 different research studies draw different limits around what counts as the food sector.).

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are due to farming, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have caused a 3rd of total international warming given that the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

Other major factors to the emissions consist of food, transportation and fertiliser manufacturing and packaging..

What parts of the food strategy could make the most significant influence on climate change?

Many of the recommendations made in the report relate in some method to environment modification or ecological sustainability. These recommendations include:.

The proposed framework uses the “three compartment design”, which aims for a balance 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 “create a better food system”. Introducing necessary reporting on a variety of metrics for food business employing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would enable services and the government to evaluate their development on the goals laid out in the report.

Davey calls the recommendations a “excellent starting point”. He adds:.

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms really attend to the climate obstacle … I believe 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?

What are the restrictions of the food technique in addressing climate change?

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while extensive, does not fully think about the unintentional effects of its suggestions. A much higher proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is wasted than meat. The recommendations to consume less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

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

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

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

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

” Another thing that appears to be missing out on 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 may have changed.”.

The food system “is very complex”, Gill states, “but I dont believe thats any excuse for not really highlighting a few of those issues right at the start”.

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

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

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

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

The chart listed below shows how all land in the UK is assigned (left) and how much abroad land is utilized to produce food for the UK (ideal).

” The sort of land that could provide the greatest ecological advantages is frequently not really agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

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

Nature-based services, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are expected to play a significant function in many countries and business net-zero targets, however a lot of these need the repurposing of agricultural land.

Lowering meat intake would also assist ease the strain on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the large majority of that land.

Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of different foodstuff. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity cost”, indicating the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a miracle”. The proposed structure utilizes the “3 compartment design”, 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 centres to stimulate development to “produce a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would permit services and the federal government to examine their development on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, shows how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity cost”, indicating the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has already indicated his hesitancy to support some of the policy suggestions laid out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, alerts Springmann:.

” Implementation of any of those suggestions really needs political will … The suggestions themselves could have been more progressive, but even the ones that exist dont seem to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform a feat of balancings” in supplying adequate land to produce the needed food, however also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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The government has devoted to producing a response to the technique, consisting of propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

Developing the technique will involve gathering information on agricultural performance, concern nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted locations. It will likewise build on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– released earlier this year– in order to determine the land finest matched for nature restoration..

In order to deal with these completing interests, the report calls for a national land-use method to best allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

” Globally, the most significant prospective carbon advantage of eating less meat would not actually be the decrease in emissions, however the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

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

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

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