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

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, lays out 14 recommendations for the UK federal government to consider, including monetary incentives, reporting and trade standards and targets for long-lasting modification in the food system..

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

The very first part of the method, released in July 2020, supplied suggestions for the government to deal with food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published 2nd part has actually the specified objective of supplying a “extensive prepare for transforming the food system”..

Last week, sequel of Englands National Food Method (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..

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

Davey includes that, in his view, “every nation on the planet would take advantage of doing something of this kind”.

The scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house countries “food systems are so securely linked as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “might in turn discover some helpful ideas” in the method.

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

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

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

The NFS has definitely brought these issues to the forefront, Edward Davey, the global engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief.

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

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

” The global food system is the single most significant contributor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, dry spell, freshwater pollution and the collapse of marine wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment modification, after the energy industry.”.

Why is the food technique crucial for dealing with climate change?

Moreover, essentially all of the gains made in the food sector have been due to cleaner energy and increased performance in the energy sector. Modifications due to farming have been minimal– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are due to farming, including rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have caused a third of total international warming because the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

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

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

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

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

The food system has seen considerably smaller sized reductions 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 since 2008, but food-related emissions have decreased by just 13% over the exact same time..

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

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

Trying to create a healthier population while farming in a less harmful method requires collaboration throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

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

Guaranteeing financing for farming payments till a minimum of 2029 at the current level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the transition to sustainable farming. The report also specifies that at least ₤ 500m of this should be “ring-fenced” for schemes that encourage environment restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland restoration. Producing a “rural land use structure” that will recommend on the very best way that any provided piece of land need to be used– whether for nature, bioenergy, something or farming else. The proposed structure utilizes the “3 compartment design”, which pursues 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), in addition to smaller centres to spur development to “produce a better food system”. The funds would be targeted at innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few areas. Decreasing meat consumption by 30% over the next decade. The report stops brief of advising a tax on meat to attain this aim (as it advises for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Instead, it mentions, the government ought to intend for “nudging customers into altering their practices”. Presenting necessary reporting on a range of metrics for food companies utilizing 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 businesses and the federal government to assess their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The program would consist of both the land-use data and the necessary reporting information explained above. Bringing these two kinds of data together, the report writes, will help “create a clear, accessible and developing image of the impact our diet has on nature, climate and public health”.

Davey calls the recommendations a “excellent starting point”. Nevertheless, he adds:.

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms truly attend to the environment 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?

Many of the recommendations made in the report relate in some method to environment modification or environmental sustainability. These recommendations consist of:.

What are the restrictions of the food method in dealing with environment change?

Gill likewise notes that the report, while extensive, does not fully think about the unexpected consequences of its recommendations. For example, a much greater proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is squandered than meat. The suggestions to consume less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

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

The food system “is really intricate”, Gill says, “but I dont believe thats any excuse for not actually highlighting a few of those issues right at the start”.

The suggestion towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as a key location in requirement of research study funding. Nevertheless, Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is already really strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

” There are already plenty of meat replaces on the market and much more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more plainly that sustainable and healthy diet plan does not always require to consist of processed meat options would have been necessary, however 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 actually need to attend to all kinds of issues. And if you wish to attend to properly the environmental issues, plus the health issues, you truly need to attend to the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

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

” 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 suggestions in the report] to come to fulfillment by which time the world might have altered.”.

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

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

Sharelines from this story.

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major role in many nations and business net-zero targets, however numerous of these need the repurposing of farming land.

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

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

” The type of land that could provide the biggest ecological advantages is frequently 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% only produces 15%.”.

However, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually currently suggested his hesitancy to support a few of the policy suggestions set out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, alerts Springmann:.

The chart below programs that when the carbon sequestration “chance expense” (yellow bars) is added to the emissions of different food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat really surpasses that of beef, due to the large quantities 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 miracle”. The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment model”, which makes every effort 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 “create 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 services and the federal government to examine their progress 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 overseas 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 reveal the carbon “opportunity expense”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to perform a task of balancings” in supplying adequate land to produce the necessary food, however likewise to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

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

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

” Implementation of any of those suggestions actually needs political will … The recommendations themselves could have been more progressive, however even the ones that exist do not seem to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

Developing the strategy will involve collecting information on agricultural productivity, top priority nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted areas. It will also build on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched earlier this year– in order to determine the land best suited for nature restoration..

The government has actually dedicated to producing a response to the technique, including proposals for new legislation, within the next 6 months..

Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of numerous food items. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity expense”, indicating the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

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Reducing meat intake would likewise assist minimize the stress 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 taking up the large majority of that land.

In order to resolve these competing interests, the report calls for a national land-use method to finest allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.