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

The first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, supplied suggestions for the government to resolve food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly released 2nd part has the mentioned objective of providing a “comprehensive prepare for transforming the food system”..

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, lays out 14 suggestions for the UK government to think about, including financial rewards, reporting and trade standards and targets for long-term change in the food system..

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

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

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a disaster”. While the present food system can feeding the “most significant international population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high environmental expense. The report notes:.

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

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

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

The NFS has actually definitely brought these concerns to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the worldwide engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief.

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house countries “food systems are so tightly linked as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn find some helpful concepts” in the method.

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

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

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

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

Why is the food strategy crucial for taking on climate modification?

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

Trying to produce a healthier population while farming in a less damaging method requires partnership across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

” Without attending to the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to fulfill those climate modification responsibilities [laid out by law] and to add to mitigating climate modification.”.

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

Other major factors to the emissions include food, fertiliser and transportation production and product packaging..

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

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

Under its dedications to the Paris Agreement, the UK has pledged to lower emissions from 1990 levels by 68% by 2030. The government has also set a lawfully binding target to attain net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Springmann states:.

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

Almost 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 triggered a third of overall global warming because the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

What parts of the food technique could make the greatest influence on climate change?

Davey calls the suggestions a “great starting point”. Nevertheless, he includes:.

The proposed structure utilizes the “3 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 sized centres to stimulate development to “produce a much better food system”. Presenting obligatory 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 allow services and the government to evaluate their progress on the objectives laid out in the report.

” The question is how quickly will those reforms actually attend to the climate challenge … 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 attain the UK national targets?

Much of the recommendations made in the report relate in some way to environment change or environmental sustainability. These suggestions include:.

What are the limitations of the food method in dealing with climate change?

” There are already lots of meat replaces on the market and much more so when you consider natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet plan does not always need to include processed meat alternatives would have been very important, but that was missed out on there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The suggestions “appear to be practically sort of looking in reverse rather than looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, tells Carbon Brief. She adds:.

For example, the recommendation towards purchasing innovation lists alternative proteins as a key location in need of research funding. Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is currently really well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

” Another thing that appears to be missing 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 recommendations in the report] to come to fulfillment by which time the world may have changed.”.

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

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

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

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

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

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while thorough, does not completely think about the unintended repercussions of its suggestions. A much higher proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is squandered than meat. The suggestions to eat less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

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

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 rearing beef and lamb for UK usage is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

As a result, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out an accomplishment of balancings” in supplying adequate land to produce the required food, however likewise to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

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In order to address these contending interests, the report requires a national land-use technique to finest allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a miracle”. The proposed framework utilizes the “3 compartment model”, which strives for a balance between semi-natural land, low-yield farmland and high-yield farmland to satisfy 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 “develop a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would allow companies and the federal government to evaluate their progress on the objectives 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 show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance cost”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

” Implementation of any of those recommendations really needs political will … The recommendations themselves might have been more progressive, however even the ones that are there do not appear to resonate extremely much with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

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

The chart below demonstrate how all land in the UK is assigned (left) and how much overseas land is utilized to produce food for the UK (ideal).

Developing the technique will include collecting data on farming productivity, priority nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated locations. It will also construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched previously this year– in order to determine the land best fit for nature repair..

The government has committed to producing a response to the method, consisting of propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next six months..

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

The chart listed below programs 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 actually goes beyond that of beef, due to the big quantities of land required to graze those animals and their cravings for tree saplings.

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

Nature-based options, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are expected to play a significant role in numerous nations and business net-zero targets, but much of these require the repurposing of farming land.

” The sort of land that could deliver the biggest environmental benefits is often not very agriculturally efficient. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

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Reducing meat usage would likewise help reduce the pressure on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the huge majority of that land.

Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of numerous food items. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance cost”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The report keeps in mind that with the ideal incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the method might be equally beneficial towards farmers and the environment. It states:.