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, consisting of monetary rewards, reporting and trade requirements and targets for long-term modification in the food system..

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

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

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

The first part of the technique, released in July 2020, offered recommendations for the government to address food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly released second part has the mentioned objective of supplying a “thorough strategy for changing the food system”..

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

” The international food system is the single greatest factor to biodiversity loss, logging, drought, freshwater contamination and the collapse of aquatic wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to environment modification, after the energy industry.”.

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

The scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house countries “food systems are so securely linked as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “may in turn discover some helpful concepts” in the technique.

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

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

Davey adds that, in his view, “every country on the planet would take advantage of doing something of this kind”.

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

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

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

Why is the food method important for dealing with climate modification?

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a portion of the 2008 emissions because sector. By 2018, emissions had actually lowered by 13%, however none of this change was due to enhancements in agriculture. Total emissions decreased by 32% over that very same time duration. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Trying to produce a much healthier population while farming in a less damaging method requires partnership throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

” Without addressing the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to fulfill those climate modification obligations [laid out by law] and to add to mitigating climate modification.”.

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

Research recommends that the food system is accountable for about one-third of international greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the exact same for the UK, Dr Marco Springmann, a population health scientist at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, informs Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, however different studies draw different borders around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to farming, consisting of rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have triggered a third of overall international warming since the industrial transformation”, the report notes.

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

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

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

The proposed structure uses the “three compartment model”, which aims for a balance in 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 centres to stimulate innovation to “create a much better food system”. Introducing mandatory reporting on a range of metrics for food companies utilizing more than 250 people. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information program, which would enable companies and the government to evaluate their development on the goals laid out in the report.

Davey calls the recommendations a “excellent starting point”. Nevertheless, he includes:.

Much of the suggestions made in the report relate in some way to environment modification or ecological sustainability. These recommendations include:.

” The question is how quickly will those reforms actually attend to the climate obstacle … I think 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 accomplish the UK national targets?

What are the constraints of the food technique in attending to environment change?

Gill likewise notes that the report, while extensive, does not completely consider the unintentional consequences of its recommendations. A much higher proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is wasted than meat. The suggestions to eat less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

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

The food system “is really complicated”, Gill says, “however I dont believe thats any excuse for not really highlighting a few of those concerns right at the start”.

” There are already plenty of meat substitutes on the marketplace and a lot more so when you consider natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet plan doesnt always require to consist of processed meat options would have been important, 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 problems. And if you wish to attend to correctly the ecological concerns, plus the health concerns, you truly need to address the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

” 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 change in farming … And its going to take years [for the recommendations in the report] to come to fruition by which time the world may have altered.”.

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

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

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

The recommendation towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in requirement of research study funding. Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is currently very well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

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” 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 quite with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

The government has committed to producing an action to the technique, consisting of proposals for new legislation, within the next six months..

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

” The sort of land that might deliver the biggest environmental benefits is typically not extremely agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a catastrophe”. The proposed framework utilizes 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 centres to spur innovation to “develop a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information program, which would allow businesses and the government to assess their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, shows how much land is used overseas to produce food for the UK. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

As a result, the report says, the food system is being “asked to perform a task of acrobatics” in supplying adequate land to produce the required food, however also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Overall carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kg of different food items. The teal bars show the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, meaning the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

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

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

Nature-based options, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant role in numerous nations and business net-zero targets, but a lot of these need the repurposing of agricultural land.

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

Sharelines from this story.

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

” Globally, the biggest potential carbon benefit of consuming less meat would not really be the reduction in emissions, but the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

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

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

Reducing meat consumption would likewise assist alleviate the strain on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the vast bulk of that land.