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

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

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

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

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

Recently, sequel of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was published, offering a broad summary of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and consumption of food– in England..

The first part of the strategy, released in July 2020, provided suggestions for the federal government to attend to food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published second part has actually the specified objective of supplying a “thorough prepare for changing the food system”..

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

” [The report] brings everyone around the table for a discussion about what kind of system do we have, what kind of system do we wish to bring, what are the compromises and might governments do things differently.”.

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

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

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the home nations “food systems are so tightly linked regarding remain in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn discover some beneficial ideas” in the strategy.

” The international food system is the single greatest factor to biodiversity loss, logging, drought, freshwater pollution and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to climate modification, after the energy industry.”.

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

This report by @food_strategy has some interesting and far reaching concepts that would suggest a big change for the better in our food system and make us all healthier. I hope that these strategies will be used 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”.

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a disaster”. While the present food system is capable of feeding the “greatest international population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high environmental cost. The report notes:.

Why is the food strategy important for dealing with environment change?

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

Under its dedications to the Paris Agreement, the UK has pledged to lower 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:.

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

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

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

Research 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 researcher at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, tells Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, but different studies draw different boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

Trying to produce a much healthier population while farming in a less destructive way requires collaboration throughout disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

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

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

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have actually triggered a 3rd of overall global warming considering that the commercial transformation”, the report notes.

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

Ensuring financing for farming payments up until at least 2029 at the existing level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to aid in the transition to sustainable farming. The report likewise stipulates that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this ought to be “ring-fenced” for schemes that encourage habitat remediation and carbon sequestration, such as peatland restoration. Developing a “rural land usage framework” that will recommend on the finest method that any offered piece of land ought to be utilized– whether for nature, farming, something or bioenergy else. The proposed framework uses the “three compartment model”, which pursues a balance 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 “develop a much better food system”. The funds would be focused on innovating fruit and veggie production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few areas. Minimizing meat consumption by 30% over the next decade. The report stops brief of advising a tax on meat to achieve this aim (as it suggests for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Instead, it states, the government needs to intend for “nudging consumers into altering their practices”. Presenting mandatory 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 national food system data programme, which would permit businesses and the government to evaluate their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The program would include both the land-use information and the obligatory reporting information explained above. Bringing these 2 kinds of data together, the report writes, will assist “develop a clear, available and progressing picture of the impact our diet plan has on nature, environment and public health”.

Numerous of the suggestions made in the report relate in some way to climate change or ecological sustainability. These recommendations include:.

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms actually address 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 needs to do to accomplish the UK national targets?

Davey calls the suggestions a “excellent starting point”. He adds:.

What are the limitations of the food strategy in addressing climate modification?

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

The suggestion towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a crucial area in need of research study funding. Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is already extremely well-developed. He tells Carbon Brief:.

The report likewise “truly shied” away from taking a strong position on lowering meat consumption, Springmann states, with effects on both the environment and public health. He states:.

The food system “is extremely complex”, Gill says, “however I dont think thats any reason for not actually highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

” Another thing that seems to be missing out on 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 may have changed.”.

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while comprehensive, does not fully think about the unexpected consequences of its recommendations. For instance, a much greater proportion of fresh vegetables and fruits is wasted than meat. So the recommendations to consume less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

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

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

” There are already a lot of meat replaces on the marketplace and even more so when you consider natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet plan does not always require to include processed meat options would have been important, but that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly require to address all kinds of issues. And if you desire to address correctly the ecological concerns, plus the health issues, you actually need to attend to the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

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

The government has actually committed to producing a response to the technique, consisting of propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

In order to deal with these contending interests, the report requires a national land-use strategy to finest designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

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

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

Sharelines from this story.

UK acreage divided up by purpose. About 70% is dedicated to agriculture, generally animals and animals feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, demonstrates how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land use happens overseas. The combined land location for raising beef and lamb for UK usage is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

” Implementation of any of those suggestions actually needs political will … The recommendations themselves might 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 moment.”.

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

Minimizing meat consumption would also assist alleviate the pressure on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the huge majority of that land.

Developing the method will involve gathering information on agricultural efficiency, concern nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted locations. It will likewise build on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched earlier this year– in order to recognize the land best suited for nature remediation..

Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of various 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 used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

The report keeps in mind that with the best rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the method might be equally advantageous towards farmers and the environment. It specifies:.

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually approximated that just over 20% of farming land should be rewilded or transformed 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 consuming less meat would not actually be the decrease in emissions, but the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

” The sort of land that could provide the biggest environmental advantages is often not very agriculturally productive. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a catastrophe”. 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 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 sized 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 information programme, which would permit businesses and the government to assess their development 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 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 show the carbon “opportunity expense”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

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