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

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

The first part of the technique, published in July 2020, offered suggestions for the government to address food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly released second part has actually the stated objective of offering a “comprehensive strategy for changing the food system”..

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

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

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a catastrophe”. While the current food system is capable of feeding the “biggest international population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high ecological cost. The report notes:.

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

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

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

The scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home nations “food systems are so securely linked as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “might in turn discover some beneficial concepts” in the strategy.

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

This report by @food_strategy has some fascinating and far reaching concepts that would suggest a big modification for the better in our food system and make us all healthier. I hope that these strategies will be taken up by this 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 evaluation of the governments food policy in almost three-quarters of a century.

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

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

Why is the food method essential for taking on environment change?

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

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

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

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

” Theres rather a great deal of siloed thinking of the food system. From the point of view of integrated national policymaking that delivers, its wonderful.”.

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

Under its dedications to the Paris Agreement, the UK has pledged 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 states:.

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

Attempting to create a much healthier population while farming in a less harmful method needs cooperation across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

Research study suggests 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 researcher at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, informs Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, but different studies draw various boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

What parts of the food strategy could make the biggest effect on climate modification?

Davey calls the recommendations a “good starting point”. He includes:.

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

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms actually address the environment challenge … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the perspective of what the land sector requires to do to achieve the UK national targets? I do not know. Its certainly an action in the right instructions, but theres most likely an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

The proposed framework uses the “three compartment design”, which aims 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), as well as smaller centres to spur development to “produce a much better food system”. Introducing necessary reporting on a variety of metrics for food business employing more than 250 people. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would enable organizations and the government to examine their progress on the objectives laid out in the report.

What are the restrictions of the food method in addressing climate modification?

” Another thing that seems to be missing 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 fulfillment by which time the world may have changed.”.

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

” There are already plenty of meat substitutes on the marketplace and much more so when you consider natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet plan doesnt always need to include processed meat options would have been very important, but that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

Gill also notes that the report, while thorough, does not fully think about the unintentional consequences of its suggestions. For instance, a much higher percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables is wasted than meat. The suggestions to eat less meat might increase the amount 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 businessman and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– implies the report itself “shows a bit of a manipulated focus” towards business-focused options, Springmann states.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly require to attend to all sort of concerns. And if you desire to resolve properly the ecological concerns, plus the health issues, you actually need to attend to the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

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

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

For instance, the recommendation towards buying innovation lists alternative proteins as an essential location in need of research study financing. However, Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is already really well-developed. He tells Carbon Brief:.

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

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In order to resolve these competing interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use strategy to best allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

Establishing the technique will include collecting information on agricultural efficiency, priority nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted areas. It will also construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– released previously this year– in order to recognize the land finest fit for nature restoration..

UK acreage divided up by function. About 70% is dedicated 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 utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land use occurs overseas. The combined land area for rearing beef and lamb for UK intake is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Nature-based options, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are expected to play a significant role in lots of countries and companies net-zero targets, however many of these require the repurposing of farming land.

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

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

Total carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kg of various food. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

As a result, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform a task of acrobatics” in providing enough land to produce the essential food, but likewise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

” The type of land that could provide the best environmental benefits is typically not very 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%.”.

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

” Globally, the greatest possible carbon benefit of eating less meat would not actually be the reduction in emissions, however the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

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

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a catastrophe”. The proposed framework uses the “three compartment model”, which makes every effort for a balance 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), as well as smaller centres to stimulate development to “create a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would allow businesses and the government to assess their development on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very same scale, reveals how much land is used overseas to produce food for the UK. The teal bars show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity cost”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

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

The government has actually committed to producing a reaction to the technique, including propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next six months..

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