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

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

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

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

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

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

The first part of the technique, published in July 2020, supplied suggestions for the government to address food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published 2nd part has the stated objective of offering a “thorough strategy for changing the food system”..

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

” The worldwide food system is the single most significant contributor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, dry spell, freshwater contamination and the collapse of marine wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to environment modification, after the energy industry.”.

The scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house nations “food systems are so firmly linked as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “might in turn find some helpful ideas” in the technique.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is the food technique crucial for taking on climate modification?

Other major contributors to the emissions include transportation, fertiliser and food manufacturing and packaging..

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

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, including rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have caused a third of overall worldwide warming because the commercial transformation”, the report notes.

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

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed believing about the food system. From the point of view of integrated nationwide policymaking that provides, its great.”.

Trying to create a much healthier population while farming in a less harmful method requires collaboration across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He says:.

” Without attending to 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 change.”.

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

Research study suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of worldwide 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%, but various research studies draw different boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

Furthermore, practically all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been due to cleaner energy and increased efficiency in the energy sector. Modifications due to farming have actually been minimal– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

What parts of the food method could make the biggest influence on climate modification?

A number of the suggestions made in the report relate in some method to climate modification or environmental sustainability. These suggestions include:.

Ensuring financing for agricultural payments till at least 2029 at the present level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the transition to sustainable farming. The report also specifies that at least ₤ 500m of this ought to be “ring-fenced” for plans that encourage environment repair and carbon sequestration, such as peatland restoration. Developing a “rural land usage structure” that will advise on the finest manner in which any offered piece of land need to be utilized– whether for nature, agriculture, something or bioenergy else. The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment model”, which pursues 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), in addition to smaller centres to spur development to “develop a much better food system”. The funds would be aimed at innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few areas. Decreasing meat usage by 30% over the next years. The report stops short of advising a tax on meat to achieve this goal (as it suggests for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Instead, it mentions, the federal government should go for “nudging customers into changing their routines”. Introducing obligatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies using more than 250 people. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would enable organizations and the government to examine their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The programme would consist of both the land-use data and the necessary reporting information explained above. Bringing these 2 types of information together, the report writes, will help “create a clear, accessible and evolving image of the impact our diet has on nature, environment and public health”.

” The question is how quickly will those reforms actually deal with the environment 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?

Davey calls the recommendations a “excellent starting point”. However, he adds:.

What are the constraints of the food method in addressing environment change?

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

” 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 suggestions in the report] to come to fulfillment by which time the world might have altered.”.

Gill likewise keeps in mind that the report, while extensive, does not totally consider the unintentional repercussions of its suggestions. A much greater percentage of fresh fruits and veggies is wasted than meat. The suggestions to eat less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

The food system “is really intricate”, Gill states, “however I do not believe thats any excuse for not actually highlighting a few of those issues right at the start”.

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

For instance, the suggestion towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as an essential area in requirement of research financing. However, Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is already very strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

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

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

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly need to resolve all kinds of issues. And if you wish to address effectively the environmental concerns, plus the health concerns, you actually need to resolve 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 substitutes like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more plainly that healthy and sustainable diet plan doesnt always need to include processed meat options would have been crucial, however that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

” Implementation of any of those suggestions actually requires political will … The recommendations themselves could have been more progressive, however even the ones that exist do not appear to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of various food items. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance 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.

In order to resolve these contending interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use method to finest allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

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

” The kind of land that might provide the biggest environmental benefits is often not really agriculturally productive. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

Nature-based services, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major role in many nations and business net-zero targets, but numerous of these require the repurposing of farming land.

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

Establishing the strategy will include gathering data on farming productivity, concern nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated locations. It will likewise build on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– released earlier this year– in order to recognize the land best fit for nature remediation..

The federal government has actually dedicated to producing a reaction to the technique, including proposals for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, shows how much land is utilized abroad to produce food for the UK. The combined land area for rearing beef and lamb for UK usage is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out a feat of balancings” in offering enough land to produce the essential food, however likewise to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

” Globally, the most significant potential carbon advantage of eating less meat would not really be the reduction in emissions, however the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

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

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

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

Minimizing meat consumption would also help reduce 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 large bulk of that land.

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a miracle”. The proposed structure uses the “three compartment design”, 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 development to “create a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data programme, which would permit companies and the government to examine their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, shows how much land is utilized overseas 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 “opportunity expense”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.