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

Last week, part 2 of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was released, providing a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– an all-inclusive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and consumption of food– in England..

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

The very first part of the method, released in July 2020, provided suggestions for the government to attend to food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published second part has the stated objective of providing a “extensive prepare for transforming the food system”..

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

The NFS is the conclusion of more than 2 years worth of meetings and dialogues with industry leaders, academics, policymakers and the general public.

The federal government has committed 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 a lot of the NFS proposals, according to the Guardian.

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

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

Some have actually criticised the recommendation to tax wholesale sugar and salt as unreasonable or as disproportionately impacting lower-income families. Others say that the measures laid 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 dialogue about what sort of system do we have, what type of system do we want to bring, what are the trade-offs and might governments do things differently.”.

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home countries “food systems are so tightly interwoven regarding be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn find some useful concepts” in the technique.

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

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

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a disaster”. While the existing food system can feeding the “biggest international population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high ecological cost. The report notes:.

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

Why is the food strategy essential for tackling environment 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 “estimated to have actually triggered a 3rd of overall global warming because the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

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

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

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

Research study recommends that the food system is accountable 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, tells Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, but different research studies draw different limits around what counts as the food sector.).

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 actually reduced by almost one-third considering that 2008, but food-related emissions have actually decreased by only 13% over the same time..

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

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage of the 2008 emissions in that sector. By 2018, emissions had actually lowered by 13%, but none of this change was due to improvements in agriculture. Total emissions reduced by 32% over that exact same period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Attempting to produce a much healthier population while farming in a less damaging method needs cooperation throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

” Theres rather a great deal of siloed thinking about the food system. So, from the perspective of integrated nationwide policymaking that delivers, its great.”.

What parts of the food technique could make the greatest effect on environment modification?

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

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms truly deal with 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 nationwide targets?

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

Guaranteeing funding for farming payments until a minimum of 2029 at the present level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the transition to sustainable farming. The report also specifies that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this must be “ring-fenced” for schemes that encourage habitat remediation and carbon sequestration, such as peatland restoration. Producing a “rural land usage structure” that will advise on the very best way that any provided piece of land need to be used– whether for nature, bioenergy, something or agriculture else. The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment model”, which aims 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 stimulate innovation to “develop a better food system”. The funds would be targeted at innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few locations. Minimizing meat intake by 30% over the next decade. The report stops short of suggesting a tax on meat to achieve this objective (as it suggests for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Rather, it states, the federal government ought to go for “nudging customers into altering their practices”. Presenting necessary reporting on a range of metrics for food business utilizing more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data programme, which would allow organizations and the federal government to examine their development on the objectives set out in the report. The program would consist of both the land-use information and the obligatory reporting information described above. Bringing these two kinds of data together, the report writes, will help “create a clear, accessible and evolving image of the effect 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– indicates the report itself “shows a little bit of a manipulated focus” towards business-focused services, Springmann states.

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while thorough, does not fully think about the unintentional consequences of its suggestions. For instance, a much greater percentage of fresh fruits and veggies is squandered than meat. The suggestions to eat less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

The suggestion towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as an essential area in need of research study funding. Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is already very well-developed. He tells Carbon Brief:.

” Another thing that appears 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 fulfillment by which time the world may have changed.”.

” There are already a lot of meat replaces on the market and much more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more plainly that sustainable and healthy diet doesnt always need to consist of processed meat options would have been essential, however that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The suggestions “appear to be almost sort of looking in reverse rather than looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, tells Carbon Brief. She includes:.

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

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

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

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

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

The report notes that with the best incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique might be mutually helpful towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

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

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

The federal government has devoted to producing an action to the strategy, including proposals for new legislation, within the next 6 months..

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

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

” Implementation of any of those recommendations really needs political will … The recommendations themselves could have been more progressive, but even the ones that are there dont appear to resonate extremely much with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

” The kind of land that might provide the best environmental benefits is frequently not extremely agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

Establishing the strategy will include gathering information on agricultural efficiency, concern nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated areas. It will also develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched previously this year– in order to identify the land best suited for nature restoration..

Decreasing meat consumption would also help minimize the stress on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the vast majority of that land.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a miracle”. The proposed framework uses the “three compartment model”, which aims 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 spur 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 enable companies and the federal government to evaluate their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. 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 teal bars indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, implying the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

Nature-based options, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are expected to play a significant role in many nations and companies net-zero targets, but numerous of these require the repurposing of farming land.

The chart below programs that when the carbon sequestration “chance expense” (yellow bars) is contributed to the emissions of different food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat actually goes beyond that of beef, due to the big amounts of land needed to graze those animals and their cravings for tree saplings.

Receive our totally free Daily Briefing for an absorb of the previous 24 hours of environment and energy media protection, or our Weekly Briefing for a round-up of our material from the previous seven days. Simply enter your e-mail listed below:.

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

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

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 consumption is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of numerous food products. The teal bars show the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity expense”, meaning the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Sharelines from this story.