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

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

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

Recently, part two of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was released, supplying a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transport and consumption of food– in England..

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

The first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, provided recommendations for the federal government to deal with food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly published second part has actually the mentioned objective of offering a “thorough prepare for transforming the food system”..

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a catastrophe”. While the current food system can feeding the “greatest global population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high ecological expense. The report notes:.

The NFS has actually certainly brought these concerns to the forefront, Edward Davey, the global engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief.

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

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

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

The scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the house countries “food systems are so firmly linked as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn discover some beneficial concepts” in the method.

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

” The global food system is the single biggest factor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, drought, freshwater pollution and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to climate change, after the energy market.”.

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

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

Why is the food method crucial for taking on environment change?

Research study suggests that the food system is responsible for about one-third of global 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, informs Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, however different studies draw various borders around what counts as the food sector.).

Almost half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, including rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have actually caused a 3rd of overall global warming because the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

The food system has seen significantly smaller sized reductions in sector-wide emissions given that 2008 as compared to the economy as a whole: economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions have actually decreased by almost one-third considering that 2008, but food-related emissions have reduced by just 13% over the exact same time..

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

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

Under its dedications to the Paris Agreement, the UK has vowed to decrease 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:.

” Theres quite a lot of siloed thinking about the food system. So, from the perspective of integrated national policymaking that delivers, its fantastic.”.

Attempting to produce a healthier population while farming in a less harmful way needs collaboration across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

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

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

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

The proposed framework utilizes the “3 compartment design”, which aims for a balance in 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 development to “develop a better food system”. Introducing compulsory reporting on a range of metrics for food companies utilizing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would permit services and the government to assess their development on the objectives laid out in the report.

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

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms actually deal with the climate challenge … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector needs to do to attain the UK national targets?

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

What are the restrictions of the food technique in attending to environment modification?

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

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you really require to attend to all type of issues. And if you wish to address correctly the ecological concerns, plus the health issues, you actually have to deal with the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

The commissioning of the report– it was led by business person and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– implies the report itself “reveals a little bit of a manipulated focus” towards business-focused options, Springmann says.

Gill also notes that the report, while comprehensive, does not fully think about the unintentional repercussions of its suggestions. A much higher proportion of fresh fruits and veggies is squandered than meat. So the suggestions to consume less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

” Another thing that appears 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 suggestions in the report] to come to fruition by which time the world may have changed.”.

The food system “is really complicated”, Gill says, “however I do not believe thats any reason for not actually highlighting a few of those concerns right at the start”.

The recommendations “appear to be almost sort of looking backwards rather than looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen and chair of the Scottish Science Advisory Council, informs Carbon Brief. She includes:.

” There are currently plenty of meat substitutes on the market and much more so when you consider natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet doesnt always require to include processed meat options would have been essential, however that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

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

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

Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of different foodstuff. The teal bars show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance expense”, implying the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a disaster”. The proposed framework uses the “three compartment design”, which strives 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 stimulate innovation to “produce a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data programme, which would permit services and the government to examine 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 product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity expense”, indicating the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

The chart below programs that when the carbon sequestration “chance expense” (yellow bars) is contributed 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 large quantities of land needed to graze those animals and their appetite for tree saplings.

” The kind of land that could deliver the best environmental benefits is typically not really agriculturally productive. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

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

Establishing the strategy will include gathering data on farming productivity, concern nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated locations. It will likewise develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– released earlier this year– in order to identify the land finest fit for nature restoration..

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

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

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out a task of balancings” in offering enough land to produce the required food, however also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Nature-based options, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major role in numerous nations and companies net-zero targets, however a number of these require the repurposing of farming land.

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In order to attend to these competing interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use technique to best allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, shows how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. The combined land area for rearing beef and lamb for UK intake is bigger 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 farming land need to be rewilded or converted to bioenergy or other, non-agricultural crops in order to accomplish net-zero by 2050. The NFS report states:.

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

Decreasing meat usage would likewise help relieve 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 taking up the huge bulk of that land.

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

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