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

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

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

The very first part of the technique, published in July 2020, supplied recommendations for the government to deal with food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly released second part has the stated goal of supplying a “thorough strategy for changing the food system”..

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

The federal government has actually dedicated 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 much of the NFS proposals, according to the Guardian.

Recently, sequel of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was published, supplying a broad summary of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transport and usage of food– in England..

What is the National Food Strategy?

The NFS has definitely brought these issues to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the worldwide engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief. He explains:.

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

” The international food system is the single most significant contributor to biodiversity loss, logging, dry spell, freshwater contamination and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment modification, after the energy market.”.

This report by @food_strategy has some interesting and far reaching concepts that would indicate a huge modification for the much better in our food system and make us all much healthier. I hope that these strategies will be used 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 almost three-quarters of a century.

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

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

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

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house countries “food systems are so firmly interwoven regarding be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “might in turn discover some beneficial concepts” in the strategy.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a miracle”. While the present food system is capable of feeding the “most significant international population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high environmental expense. The report notes:.

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

Why is the food technique important for taking on environment modification?

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

Almost half of all food-related emissions are because of agriculture, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have caused a 3rd of overall worldwide warming considering that the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

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

Virtually all of the gains made in the food sector have been due to cleaner energy and increased efficiency in the energy sector. Changes due to agriculture have been negligible– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

Attempting to develop a much healthier population while farming in a less damaging way requires cooperation across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He says:.

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

” Without dealing with the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to satisfy those environment modification responsibilities [laid out by law] and to add to mitigating environment modification.”.

Research recommends that the food system is accountable 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 researcher 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 various boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

” Theres rather a great deal of siloed considering the food system. From the point of view of integrated nationwide policymaking that delivers, its fantastic.”.

The food system has seen significantly smaller decreases in sector-wide emissions given that 2008 as compared to the economy as a whole: economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions have reduced by nearly one-third given that 2008, but food-related emissions have actually reduced by only 13% over the very same time..

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

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms really deal with the environment challenge … I believe 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 accomplish the UK nationwide targets?

Davey calls the recommendations a “good starting point”. However, he includes:.

A lot of the suggestions made in the report relate in some way to environment change or environmental sustainability. These suggestions consist of:.

Guaranteeing funding for agricultural payments until a minimum of 2029 at the existing level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to aid in the shift to sustainable farming. The report also specifies that at least ₤ 500m of this should be “ring-fenced” for plans that encourage habitat repair and carbon sequestration, such as peatland repair. Developing a “rural land usage structure” that will encourage on the best manner in which any given piece of land should be used– whether for nature, bioenergy, agriculture or something else. The proposed framework uses the “three compartment design”, which strives 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), along with smaller centres to spur development to “produce a better food system”. The funds would be targeted at innovating fruit and veggie production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, among other locations. Decreasing meat consumption by 30% over the next decade. The report stops brief of recommending a tax on meat to accomplish this aim (as it advises for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Rather, it states, the federal government should intend for “nudging consumers into changing their routines”. Introducing obligatory 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 information programme, which would permit organizations and the federal government to examine their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The programme would consist of both the land-use data and the compulsory reporting data explained above. Bringing these 2 types of information together, the report writes, will assist “develop a clear, available and developing picture of the impact our diet plan has on nature, environment and public health”.

What are the restrictions of the food strategy in dealing with climate modification?

The suggestions “seem to be almost sort of looking backwards rather than 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 a crucial location in requirement of research funding. Nevertheless, Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is already extremely strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

Gill likewise keeps in mind that the report, while thorough, does not completely think about the unexpected repercussions of its suggestions. For instance, a much greater proportion of fresh vegetables and fruits is lost than meat. The suggestions to consume less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

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

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

” There are currently lots of meat substitutes on the marketplace and much more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more plainly that healthy and sustainable diet does not always need to include processed meat alternatives would have been very important, however that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly need to address all type of concerns. And if you want to resolve effectively the ecological concerns, plus the health issues, you really have to deal with the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

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

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

” Another thing that seems to be missing 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.”.

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

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

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

” Implementation of any of those suggestions truly needs political will … The recommendations themselves might have been more progressive, however even the ones that exist dont appear to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of various food. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

The report notes that with the ideal rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique might be mutually advantageous towards farmers and the environment. It specifies:.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a disaster”. The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment model”, which makes every effort 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”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data programme, which would allow services and the federal government to assess their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the 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”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

In order to resolve these competing interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use technique to best assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

Establishing the strategy will include collecting information on agricultural productivity, top priority nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated areas. It will likewise construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched earlier this year– in order to recognize the land best suited for nature restoration..

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

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to perform a task of balancings” in providing sufficient land to produce the needed food, but also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

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

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

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

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However, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has already shown 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:.

Lowering meat usage would likewise assist alleviate the strain on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the vast majority of that land.