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

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

The government has actually devoted to producing a white paper and proposals for future laws in action within the next six 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.

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

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

The very first part of the method, published in July 2020, provided recommendations for the government to attend to food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly published 2nd part has the stated goal of providing a “detailed strategy for changing the food system”..

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

This report by @food_strategy has some interesting and far reaching ideas that would mean a huge modification for the much better in our food system and make all of us 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 scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house nations “food systems are so tightly linked as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “might in turn find some beneficial concepts” in the technique.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davey adds that, in his view, “every country in the world would benefit from doing something of this kind”.

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

Why is the food method crucial for tackling environment modification?

” Theres quite a lot of siloed believing about the food system. So, from the point of view of integrated national policymaking that provides, its fantastic.”.

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

The food system has seen considerably 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 nearly one-third given that 2008, but food-related emissions have reduced by only 13% over the very same time..

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

Under its commitments to the Paris Agreement, the UK has actually promised to minimize emissions from 1990 levels by 68% by 2030. The federal government has actually also set a lawfully binding target to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Springmann states:.

Research suggests that the food system is responsible for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about the exact 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%, however various studies draw various boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a portion of the 2008 emissions in that sector. By 2018, emissions had actually decreased by 13%, but none of this change was due to improvements in farming. Total emissions decreased by 32% over that very same time period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

What parts of the food strategy could make the biggest influence on environment modification?

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms truly deal with the environment difficulty … I think the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the perspective of what the land sector requires to do to attain the UK nationwide targets? I do not understand. Its definitely an action in the right instructions, however theres probably an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

Ensuring funding for agricultural payments up until at least 2029 at the existing level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to assist in the shift to sustainable farming. The report likewise specifies that at least ₤ 500m of this needs to be “ring-fenced” for schemes that motivate environment repair and carbon sequestration, such as peatland remediation. Creating a “rural land use structure” that will advise on the very best way that any offered piece of land must be utilized– whether for nature, something, agriculture or bioenergy else. The proposed framework uses the “three 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 stimulate development to “produce a better food system”. The funds would be aimed at innovating fruit and veggie production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, amongst other locations. Minimizing meat intake by 30% over the next years. The report stops short of advising a tax on meat to accomplish this aim (as it advises for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Rather, it specifies, the federal government should go for “nudging consumers into altering their practices”. Introducing necessary reporting on a variety 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 information programme, which would permit companies and the government to assess their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The programme would include both the land-use data and the compulsory reporting information described above. Bringing these 2 types of information together, the report composes, will assist “produce a clear, available and evolving photo of the effect our diet has on nature, climate and public health”.

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

Numerous of the suggestions made in the report relate in some method to climate modification or ecological sustainability. These suggestions include:.

What are the constraints of the food technique in attending to environment change?

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

Gill also notes that the report, while extensive, does not completely think about the unintended consequences of its recommendations. A much greater percentage of fresh fruits and veggies is squandered than meat. The suggestions to consume less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

” There are already a lot of meat replaces on the market and even more so when you consider natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more plainly that sustainable and healthy diet doesnt always require to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been necessary, but that was missed out on there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

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

” 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 fulfillment by which time the world may have changed.”.

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

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

For instance, the recommendation towards buying innovation lists alternative proteins as an essential area in requirement of research study financing. Nevertheless, Springmann says, the alternative-protein market is already really strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you actually need to deal with all type of issues. And if you want to address effectively the environmental issues, plus the health concerns, you actually have to address the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

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

The chart listed below shows that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity cost” (yellow bars) is added to the emissions of various food groups (teal bars), the carbon expense of lamb and goat meat in fact surpasses that of beef, due to the big quantities of land required to graze those animals and their cravings for tree saplings.

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” Implementation of any of those recommendations actually requires political will … The recommendations themselves might have been more progressive, but even the ones that are there do not 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 uses the “3 compartment design”, which strives 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 centres to stimulate innovation to “produce a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would permit businesses and the federal government to evaluate their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the same scale, shows how much land is used overseas 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 cost”, implying the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

In order to attend to these competing interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use strategy to best designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

The chart listed below demonstrate how all land in the UK is allocated (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 mutually helpful towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has estimated that simply 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:.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has 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, alerts Springmann:.

UK acreage divided up by purpose. About 70% is devoted to agriculture, primarily livestock and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very same scale, shows how much land is utilized abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the overall land use happens overseas. The combined land location for raising beef and lamb for UK intake is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Overall carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kilogram of numerous food. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, 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.

As a result, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out a feat of balancings” in supplying sufficient land to produce the needed food, however also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Establishing the technique will include gathering information on farming efficiency, top priority nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated 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 finest fit for nature remediation..

Decreasing meat intake would also assist alleviate the strain on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the huge bulk of that land.

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

” Globally, the biggest prospective carbon advantage of eating less meat would not actually be the decrease in emissions, however the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

The federal government has dedicated to producing a response to the technique, including proposals for brand-new legislation, within the next six months..

Nature-based options, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are expected to play a major role in numerous countries and companies net-zero targets, but a number of these require the repurposing of agricultural land.