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

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-inclusive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and intake of food– in England..

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

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

The first part of the technique, 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 newly published second part has actually the mentioned objective of supplying a “thorough strategy for transforming the food system”..

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

” The global food system is the single most significant contributor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, drought, freshwater contamination and the collapse of aquatic 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 unfair or as disproportionately affecting lower-income households. Others say that the measures laid out in the report do not go far sufficient towards making the food system more sustainable.

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

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home countries “food systems are so firmly linked as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn discover some helpful concepts” in the strategy.

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

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

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

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

Why is the food method essential for dealing with environment change?

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

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

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

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

Trying to produce a healthier population while farming in a less harmful method needs collaboration throughout disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

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

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage of the 2008 emissions because sector. By 2018, emissions had reduced by 13%, however none of this change was due to improvements in agriculture. General emissions decreased by 32% over that exact same time duration. 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 caused a 3rd of overall global warming since the commercial transformation”, the report notes.

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

Other significant contributors to the emissions consist of fertiliser, transport and food production and product packaging..

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

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

Guaranteeing financing for agricultural payments till a minimum of 2029 at the existing level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to assist in the transition to sustainable farming. The report likewise specifies that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this needs to be “ring-fenced” for schemes that motivate environment restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland repair. Producing a “rural land use structure” that will encourage on the very best way that any offered piece of land ought to be utilized– whether for nature, bioenergy, something or farming else. The proposed framework uses 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), along with smaller sized centres to spur innovation to “produce 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 locations. Decreasing meat consumption by 30% over the next years. The report stops short of advising a tax on meat to achieve this goal (as it recommends for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Rather, it mentions, the government needs to aim for “nudging consumers into altering their habits”. Presenting necessary reporting on a range of metrics for food business employing more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would permit services and the government to examine their progress on the goals set out in the report. The program would include both the land-use information and the mandatory reporting information described above. Bringing these 2 types of data together, the report writes, will assist “develop a clear, accessible and evolving image of the impact our diet has on nature, climate and public health”.

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

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms actually address the environment difficulty … I think 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 method in addressing climate modification?

” There are currently lots of meat substitutes on the market and even more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet plan doesnt always need to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been very important, but that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

” Another thing that seems 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 fruition by which time the world might have changed.”.

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

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

For instance, the suggestion towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as an essential area in requirement of research funding. Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is currently extremely well-developed. He tells Carbon Brief:.

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

The commissioning of the report– it was led by businessman and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– indicates the report itself “shows a bit of a manipulated focus” towards business-focused solutions, Springmann says.

The food system “is very intricate”, Gill says, “however I dont think thats any excuse for not really highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

Gill likewise notes that the report, while thorough, does not totally consider the unintended effects of its suggestions. For instance, a much greater proportion of fresh vegetables and fruits is lost than meat. The suggestions to eat less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you really need to deal with all kinds of problems. And if you want to attend to correctly the ecological issues, plus the health concerns, you truly have to deal with the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

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

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, alerts Springmann:.

Establishing the method will involve collecting data on farming performance, concern nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted locations. It will likewise develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched earlier this year– in order to determine the land finest fit for nature restoration..

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Overall carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kilogram of various food. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, implying the quantity 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 completing interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use technique to finest designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a miracle”. The proposed structure utilizes the “3 compartment design”, which aims 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 “create a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would allow services 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 utilized abroad 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 reveal the carbon “opportunity expense”, suggesting the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

The report notes that with the right rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy could be equally helpful towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

The federal government has committed to producing an action to the technique, including propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

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

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

” Implementation of any of those suggestions truly needs political will … The recommendations themselves could 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 kind of land that could provide the best environmental advantages is often not very agriculturally efficient. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

UK acreage divided up by purpose. About 70% is dedicated to farming, primarily animals and animals feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the same scale, shows how much land is utilized abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land use happens overseas. The combined land area for raising beef and lamb for UK intake is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

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

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

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform an accomplishment of balancings” in providing sufficient land to produce the needed food, however likewise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Reducing meat usage would likewise help minimize the stress on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the huge majority of that land.