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 rewards, reporting and trade requirements and targets for long-term modification 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 align– with the UKs climate targets and decarbonisation goals.

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

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

The very first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, offered suggestions for the federal government to deal with food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly published second part has actually the stated objective of supplying a “detailed plan for changing the food system”..

Recently, sequel of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was published, providing a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– an all-encompassing term that covers the production, processing, transport and consumption of food– in England..

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

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

Although 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 locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “might in turn discover some helpful concepts” in the technique.

” The global food system is the single biggest contributor to biodiversity loss, logging, drought, freshwater contamination and the collapse of aquatic wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment change, after the energy market.”.

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

” [The report] brings everyone around the table for a discussion about what kind of system do we have, what kind of system do we want to bring, what are the trade-offs and might federal governments do things in a different way.”.

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

Nevertheless, the NFS has actually definitely brought these issues to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the global engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief. He describes:.

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

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

Why is the food strategy essential for taking on environment modification?

Research study suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the very 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 different research studies draw various limits around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

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

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are because of agriculture, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have actually triggered a third of overall worldwide warming because the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage of the 2008 emissions in that sector. By 2018, emissions had actually lowered by 13%, however none of this change was because of enhancements in farming. Overall emissions decreased by 32% over that very same period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Other major factors to the emissions consist of fertiliser, food and transportation manufacturing and packaging..

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

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

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

What parts of the food method could make the most significant effect on climate modification?

” The question is how quickly will those reforms truly deal with the environment obstacle … I think 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 nationwide targets?

The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment design”, which makes every effort 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 sized centres to stimulate development to “develop a better food system”. Introducing necessary reporting on a range of metrics for food companies using more than 250 people. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information programme, which would permit businesses and the federal government to evaluate their development on the goals laid out in the report.

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

A lot of the suggestions made in the report relate in some method to climate modification or environmental sustainability. These suggestions consist of:.

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

The suggestion towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as an essential location in requirement of research funding. Nevertheless, Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is currently really strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

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

” There are already 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 sustainable and healthy diet does not always need to consist of processed meat options would have been essential, but that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

” Another thing that appears to be missing out on is that foresighting, wheres the world going to from other sectors … Theres going to be a change 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 report likewise “actually shied” away from taking a strong position on decreasing meat intake, Springmann states, with effect on both the environment and public health. He states:.

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

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

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

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while comprehensive, does not totally think about the unintended repercussions of its suggestions. For example, a much higher proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is lost than meat. The recommendations to consume less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

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

The chart below shows that when the carbon sequestration “chance expense” (yellow bars) is included to the emissions of various food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat actually goes beyond that of beef, due to the large amounts of land needed to graze those animals and their cravings for tree saplings.

Reducing meat consumption would also help 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 using up the large majority of that land.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a catastrophe”. The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment design”, which strives for 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), as well as smaller centres to stimulate development to “produce a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information programme, which would enable organizations and the federal government to evaluate their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, shows how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. The teal bars show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, meaning the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

In order to resolve these competing interests, the report requires a national land-use technique to best assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

The right-hand side of the chart, using the very same scale, shows how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. The combined land location for raising beef and lamb for UK intake is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to perform a task of acrobatics” in supplying enough land to produce the required food, but also to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

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

The chart below programs how all land in the UK is designated (left) and just how much abroad land is utilized to produce food for the UK (ideal).

Sharelines from this story.

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major function in many nations and business net-zero targets, but a number of these need the repurposing of agricultural land.

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

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

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

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

” The type of land that could provide the biggest environmental advantages is typically not extremely 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%.”.

Developing the strategy will involve gathering information on farming performance, top priority nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted locations. It will likewise construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched previously this year– in order to recognize the land finest fit for nature restoration..

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

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