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

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

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, sets out 14 recommendations for the UK government to consider, including monetary incentives, reporting and trade requirements and targets for long-term change in the food system..

Last week, sequel of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was published, providing a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and consumption of food– in England..

The first part of the technique, released in July 2020, provided suggestions for the government to resolve food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly released second part has actually the specified goal of offering a “thorough prepare for changing the food system”..

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

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

Its objective was to supply a roadmap for changing the food system from its existing state to one that is healthier for the population and the planet..

However, the NFS has definitely brought these problems to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the international engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief. He explains:.

” The worldwide food system is the single biggest factor to biodiversity loss, logging, dry spell, freshwater pollution and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment modification, after the energy market.”.

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

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

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 governments “may in turn find some beneficial ideas” in the method.

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. While the present food system is capable of feeding the “biggest worldwide population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high ecological 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 almost three-quarters of a century.

Why is the food technique essential for taking on environment change?

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

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

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

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

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

” Theres rather a great deal of siloed thinking about the food system. From the point of view of integrated nationwide policymaking that provides, its fantastic.”.

Other major contributors to the emissions include food, transport and fertiliser manufacturing and product packaging..

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage of the 2008 emissions in that sector. By 2018, emissions had actually reduced by 13%, but none of this modification was due to enhancements in farming. Overall emissions reduced by 32% over that exact same period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Trying to develop a much healthier population while farming in a less damaging method needs collaboration throughout disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He says:.

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

What parts of the food technique could make the biggest effect on environment modification?

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

Davey calls the recommendations a “excellent starting point”. He adds:.

The proposed framework uses the “3 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 centres to spur innovation to “produce a much better food system”. Presenting obligatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food business utilizing more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would allow businesses and the government to assess their development on the objectives laid out in the report.

” The question is how quickly will those reforms really attend to the environment obstacle … I think the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector needs to do to achieve the UK national targets?

What are the restrictions of the food technique in addressing climate modification?

” 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 transformation 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 intricate”, Gill states, “however I do not think thats any reason for not really highlighting a few of those issues right at the start”.

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

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

For instance, the suggestion towards purchasing development lists alternative proteins as a key location in requirement of research funding. Nevertheless, Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is already really well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

The recommendations “appear to be almost sort of looking backwards instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, tells Carbon Brief. She includes:.

” There are currently a lot of meat substitutes on the market and much more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet does not always require to consist of processed meat options would have been essential, but that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

Gill likewise keeps in mind that the report, while thorough, does not completely think about the unintended effects of its recommendations. For example, a much greater proportion of fresh fruits and veggies is lost than meat. So the recommendations to eat less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

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

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” Implementation of any of those suggestions actually requires political will … The recommendations themselves might 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.”.

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

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. The combined land area for raising beef and lamb for UK intake is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

As a result, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out an accomplishment of acrobatics” in providing enough land to produce the needed food, however likewise to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

” The kind of land that could deliver the biggest ecological advantages is frequently not extremely agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has approximated that just over 20% of farming 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:.

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

Total carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kg of various food. The teal bars show the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity cost”, indicating the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The report keeps in mind that with the ideal rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy could be equally helpful towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

Lowering meat consumption would also help minimize the strain on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the vast bulk of that land.

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a disaster”. The proposed structure utilizes the “3 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 include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information program, which would permit businesses and the federal government to evaluate their progress 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 show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance expense”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

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

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

Developing the technique will include collecting information on agricultural productivity, top priority nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted areas. It will likewise build on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched previously this year– in order to determine the land finest suited for nature remediation..

Nature-based options, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant function in lots of nations and companies net-zero targets, but a number of these require the repurposing of farming land.

The federal government has actually devoted to producing an action to the strategy, including propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next six months..