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

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

Last week, part 2 of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was released, offering a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive 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 federal government to think about, including monetary rewards, reporting and trade requirements and targets for long-lasting modification in the food system..

The NFS is the conclusion of more than 2 years worth of conferences and discussions with market leaders, academics, policymakers and the general public.

The first part of the technique, released in July 2020, offered suggestions for the federal government to address food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly published 2nd part has the stated objective of providing a “comprehensive strategy for changing the food system”..

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

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

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

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

” The international food system is the single greatest contributor to biodiversity loss, logging, dry spell, freshwater contamination and the collapse of marine wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to climate modification, after the energy market.”.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a miracle”. While the current food system is capable of feeding the “greatest international 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.

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

Why is the food strategy essential for tackling climate modification?

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

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

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

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

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

Furthermore, essentially all of the gains made in the food sector have been because of 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.

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

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

” Theres quite a lot of siloed considering the food system. So, from the point of view of integrated national policymaking that delivers, its great.”.

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

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

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

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

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms actually address the environment challenge … I think the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the viewpoint of what the land sector needs to do to achieve the UK national targets? I do not know. Its definitely an action in the best instructions, however theres probably an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

The proposed framework utilizes the “3 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 stimulate development to “create a much better food system”. Introducing obligatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food business using more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information program, which would enable companies and the government to evaluate their progress on the objectives laid out in the report.

What are the limitations of the food method in attending to environment change?

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

The suggestions “appear to be nearly sort of looking in reverse rather than looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, tells Carbon Brief. She includes:.

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

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

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

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

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while thorough, does not totally consider the unexpected repercussions of its suggestions. For example, a much greater percentage 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 a lot of meat substitutes on the marketplace and a lot more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more plainly that sustainable and healthy diet plan doesnt necessarily require to include processed meat alternatives would have been essential, but that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The recommendation towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as an essential area in need of research funding. However, Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is already very well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

” 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 suggestions in the report] to come to fruition by which time the world may have altered.”.

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

” The type of land that might provide the biggest environmental benefits is often not really agriculturally productive. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

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

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

Developing the technique will include gathering data on agricultural efficiency, concern nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted areas. It will also construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched earlier this year– in order to identify the land best suited for nature repair..

Minimizing meat consumption would likewise help ease the strain on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the vast bulk of that land.

As a result, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out a feat of balancings” in offering adequate land to produce the necessary food, however also to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

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In order to resolve these contending interests, the report calls for a national land-use method to best assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

Overall carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kg of different food items. The teal bars show the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, suggesting the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

” Globally, the most significant potential carbon benefit of consuming less meat would not in fact be the reduction in emissions, however the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

The chart listed below programs that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity expense” (yellow bars) is included to the emissions of different food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat really goes beyond that of beef, due to the large amounts of land required to graze those animals and their hunger for tree saplings.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. 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 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 sized centres to spur innovation to “develop a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would permit organizations and the government to examine their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, reveals how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity cost”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has already shown 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:.

UK land area divided up by purpose. About 70% is committed to farming, generally animals and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, shows how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the overall land use occurs overseas. The combined acreage for raising beef and lamb for UK intake is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The federal government has devoted to producing a response to the method, consisting of propositions for new legislation, within the next six months..

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

Nature-based options, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are expected to play a significant role in lots of countries and business net-zero targets, but a number of these need the repurposing of farming land.

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” Implementation of any of those suggestions really requires political will … The suggestions themselves could have been more progressive, however even the ones that exist do not appear to resonate really much with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.