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

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

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

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, lays out 14 suggestions for the UK government to consider, including financial rewards, reporting and trade standards and targets for long-lasting change in the food system..

The NFS is the culmination of more than two years worth of conferences and discussions with industry leaders, academics, policymakers and the public.

Last week, part 2 of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was published, providing a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– an all-inclusive term that covers the production, processing, transport and intake of food– in England..

The first part of the method, released in July 2020, offered suggestions for the federal government to attend to food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly released second part has actually the specified objective of providing a “thorough plan for transforming the food system”..

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

Its goal was to provide a roadmap for changing the food system from its existing state to one that is healthier for the population and the world..

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

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

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

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

The NFS has certainly brought these concerns to the forefront, Edward Davey, the international engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief.

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home nations “food systems are so securely interwoven regarding be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn discover some useful concepts” in the method.

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

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

Why is the food strategy important for tackling climate change?

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed believing about the food system. So, from the perspective of integrated national policymaking that delivers, its great.”.

Research study recommends that the food system is accountable for about one-third of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about the very 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 borders around what counts as the food sector.).

Furthermore, virtually all of the gains made in the food sector have been due to cleaner energy and increased effectiveness in the energy sector. Changes due to agriculture have been minimal– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

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

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

Almost half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have triggered a third of total global warming because the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

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

Attempting to develop a healthier population while farming in a less destructive way needs partnership throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

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

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

What parts of the food strategy could make the most significant influence on environment modification?

Much of the suggestions made in the report relate in some method to climate modification or environmental sustainability. These suggestions consist of:.

The proposed framework utilizes the “3 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), as well as smaller centres to stimulate development to “produce a better food system”. Introducing obligatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies employing more than 250 people. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data programme, which would allow companies and the government to examine their progress on the goals laid out in the report.

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms actually resolve the climate challenge … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector requires to do to achieve the UK nationwide targets?

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

What are the restrictions of the food method in resolving environment change?

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

” There are already plenty of meat replaces on the marketplace and even more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet does not always need to consist of processed meat options would have been essential, however that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

Gill also notes that the report, while extensive, does not totally consider the unintended effects of its recommendations. For example, a much greater proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is wasted than meat. The suggestions to consume less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

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

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

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

The report also “really shied” away from taking a strong position on lowering meat consumption, Springmann says, with effects on both the environment and public health. He 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 currently really strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

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

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

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

The federal government has devoted to producing a reaction to the strategy, including propositions for new legislation, within the next 6 months..

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 location for rearing beef and lamb for UK consumption is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Developing the technique will include collecting data on farming performance, concern nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted locations. It will likewise build on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched previously this year– in order to recognize the land best matched for nature repair..

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

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

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are expected to play a significant function in many nations and business net-zero targets, but much of these need the repurposing of farming land.

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to perform a feat of balancings” in offering enough land to produce the needed food, however also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a catastrophe”. The proposed framework uses the “three compartment model”, which strives 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 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 federal government to evaluate their development on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, reveals how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance expense”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

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

” The sort of land that might deliver the greatest environmental advantages is often 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 UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has approximated that simply over 20% of agricultural land should be rewilded or converted to bioenergy or other, non-agricultural crops in order to accomplish net-zero by 2050. The NFS report states:.

Minimizing meat usage would also help ease the stress on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the large bulk of that land.

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

In order to deal with these contending interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use technique to finest assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

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

Sharelines from this story.

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

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” Implementation of any of those suggestions really requires political will … The suggestions themselves could have been more progressive, but even the ones that are there do not seem to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.