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

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

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

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

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

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

The very first part of the method, published in July 2020, supplied recommendations for the government to address food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly released 2nd part has the mentioned objective of supplying a “comprehensive plan for transforming the food system”..

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

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

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

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

The scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home nations “food systems are so tightly interwoven as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “might in turn find some helpful concepts” in the strategy.

The NFS has definitely brought these problems to the forefront, Edward Davey, the international engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief. He discusses:.

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

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

” [The report] brings everyone around the table for a dialogue about what type of system do we have, what type of system do we want to bring, what are the trade-offs and might federal governments do things in a different way.”.

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. While the existing food system is capable of feeding the “most significant global population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high environmental cost. The report notes:.

Why is the food method essential for taking on environment modification?

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

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are due to farming, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have triggered a third of overall worldwide warming considering that the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

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

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

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed thinking of the food system. So, from the point of view of integrated national policymaking that provides, its great.”.

The food system has seen considerably smaller reductions in sector-wide emissions since 2008 as compared to the economy as a whole: economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by nearly one-third since 2008, however food-related emissions have decreased by just 13% over the very same time..

Attempting to develop a healthier population while farming in a less damaging method needs cooperation across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

Research study suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the very 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%, but different studies draw different boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

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

” The question is how quickly will those reforms really attend to the climate difficulty … 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? I do not know. Its definitely an action in the ideal direction, however theres probably an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

Much of the recommendations made in the report relate in some method to environment change or ecological sustainability. These suggestions consist of:.

The proposed framework uses the “three compartment model”, which aims 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 innovation to “produce a better food system”. Presenting mandatory reporting on a range of metrics for food companies employing more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would allow businesses and the government to evaluate their progress on the objectives laid out in the report.

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

What are the constraints of the food method in dealing with climate modification?

” Another thing that seems to be missing is that foresighting, wheres the world going to from other sectors … Theres going to be a transformation 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.”.

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

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

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly need to deal with all sort of concerns. And if you desire to resolve properly the ecological issues, plus the health issues, you truly have to resolve the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

The recommendation towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a key area in requirement of research study funding. Springmann says, the alternative-protein market is already extremely well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while comprehensive, does not fully consider the unintended consequences of its suggestions. A much greater proportion of fresh fruits and veggies is squandered than meat. The suggestions to consume less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

” There are currently plenty of meat substitutes on the marketplace and even more so when you consider natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those examples … 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 out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The food system “is extremely complex”, Gill states, “but I do not believe thats any reason for not in fact highlighting some of those concerns right at the start”.

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

How does the food strategy address the contending interests of farming land usage and land usage for carbon sequestration?

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

Reducing meat consumption would likewise help relieve the stress on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the vast bulk of that land.

In order to resolve these competing interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use strategy to finest designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to perform a feat of acrobatics” in providing sufficient land to produce the necessary food, but likewise to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

” The sort of land that might deliver the best environmental benefits is frequently not extremely agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

Establishing the method will include gathering information on agricultural performance, priority nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated locations. It will also construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– released previously this year– in order to identify the land best suited for nature repair..

The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very same scale, shows how much land is used overseas to produce food for the UK. The combined land location for rearing beef and lamb for UK intake is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

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

Sharelines from this story.

The chart below programs how all land in the UK is allocated (left) and just how much abroad land is used to produce food for the UK (ideal).

The report notes that with the best incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy might be mutually useful towards farmers and the environment. It specifies:.

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The government has actually devoted to producing a reaction to the strategy, consisting of propositions for new legislation, within the next six months..

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

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

” Implementation of any of those recommendations actually requires political will … The suggestions themselves could have been more progressive, but even the ones that exist dont appear to resonate extremely much with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. The proposed structure utilizes the “3 compartment model”, which aims 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 “produce a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information program, which would enable organizations 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, reveals how much land is utilized 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 reveal the carbon “chance expense”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of numerous food products. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.