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 explains how its suggestions line up– or do not line up– with the UKs environment targets and decarbonisation goals.

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

The first part of the strategy, released in July 2020, offered suggestions for the federal government to deal with food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released 2nd part has actually the mentioned goal of supplying a “extensive plan for changing the food system”..

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

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

Last week, part 2 of Englands National Food Method (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 consumption of food– in England..

What is the National Food Strategy?

Its goal was to provide a roadmap for changing the food system from its current 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 mean a big modification for the much 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 reaction to last weeks release saw members of parliament, celeb chefs and even rockstars weighing in on its significance.

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

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

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a disaster”. While the present food system can feeding the “greatest global population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high ecological expense. The report notes:.

The scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the home countries “food systems are so firmly interwoven as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn find some beneficial concepts” in the technique.

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

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

Why is the food strategy important for tackling climate modification?

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 farming have been minimal– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

Trying to develop a much healthier population while farming in a less destructive method needs cooperation across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

” Theres rather a lot of siloed believing about the food system. So, from the point of view of integrated nationwide policymaking that provides, its wonderful.”.

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

The food system has seen substantially smaller decreases in sector-wide emissions since 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 just 13% over the exact same time..

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

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

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, including rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have actually triggered a third of overall global warming given that the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

Research study recommends that the food system is accountable for about one-third of global 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%, however various research studies draw various limits around what counts as the food sector.).

” Without resolving the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to fulfill those environment change commitments [set out by law] and to add to mitigating climate change.”.

What parts of the food method could make the greatest effect on environment modification?

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

The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment model”, which strives for a balance in between semi-natural land, low-yield farmland and high-yield farmland to satisfy 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 development to “create a much better food system”. Introducing compulsory 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 information programme, which would permit organizations and the government to evaluate their development on the objectives laid out in the report.

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

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms truly resolve the climate 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 requires to do to accomplish the UK national targets?

What are the constraints of the food strategy in attending to environment modification?

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

” Another thing that appears to be missing is that foresighting, wheres the world going to from other sectors … Theres going to be an improvement 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 altered.”.

The food system “is very complicated”, Gill states, “however I dont believe thats any reason for not really highlighting some of those concerns right at the start”.

The recommendations “appear to be nearly sort of looking in reverse instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, informs Carbon Brief. She includes:.

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

For instance, the recommendation towards purchasing innovation lists alternative proteins as a crucial area in requirement of research study financing. Nevertheless, Springmann says, the alternative-protein market is already really strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you actually require to attend to all type of issues. And if you desire to attend to properly the environmental concerns, plus the health issues, you really have to address the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

” There are already a lot of meat replaces on the marketplace and even more so when you consider natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet plan doesnt always require to consist of processed meat options would have been necessary, but that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

Gill likewise keeps in mind that the report, while comprehensive, does not completely consider the unintended repercussions of its suggestions. For instance, a much greater percentage of fresh vegetables and fruits is wasted than meat. So the suggestions to consume less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

The report also “actually shied” away from taking a strong position on minimizing meat usage, Springmann says, with influence on both the environment and public health. He says:.

How does the food technique address the completing interests of farming land use and land use for carbon sequestration?

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

Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of different foodstuff. The teal bars show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, suggesting the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Nature-based options, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major role in lots of countries and business net-zero targets, but numerous of these require the repurposing of farming land.

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The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually approximated that simply 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:.

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

Lowering meat consumption would also help minimize the strain 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 majority of that land.

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

Establishing the method will involve collecting information on agricultural productivity, priority nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated areas. It will also construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– released earlier this year– in order to recognize the land finest fit for nature restoration..

As a result, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform a feat of acrobatics” in supplying sufficient land to produce the needed food, however also to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a miracle”. The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment design”, which aims for a balance in between semi-natural land, low-yield farmland and high-yield farmland to satisfy 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 “produce a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information program, which would permit organizations and the government to assess their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the very same scale, reveals how much land is used overseas to produce food for the UK. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity cost”, implying the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

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

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

The government has committed to producing an action to the strategy, including proposals for new legislation, within the next six months..

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 combined land location for raising beef and lamb for UK consumption is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has already 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:.

” The kind of land that might provide the best environmental advantages 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%.”.