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

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

The first part of the method, released in July 2020, offered recommendations for the federal government to deal with food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly released 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 two years worth of conferences and discussions with industry leaders, academics, policymakers and the public.

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

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

” The worldwide food system is the single most significant contributor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, drought, freshwater pollution and the collapse of aquatic wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment modification, after the energy industry.”.

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 laid out in the report do not go far adequate towards making the food system more sustainable.

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 very first independent evaluation of the governments food policy in nearly three-quarters of a century.

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home countries “food systems are so securely linked regarding be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “might in turn find some beneficial concepts” in the strategy.

However, the NFS has definitely brought these issues to the forefront, Edward Davey, the global engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief. He explains:.

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

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

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

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

Why is the food method essential for tackling environment modification?

Other significant contributors to the emissions consist of transport, food and fertiliser production and product packaging..

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have actually triggered a 3rd of overall international warming given that the industrial transformation”, the report notes.

Practically all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been due to cleaner energy and increased efficiency in the energy sector. Changes due to farming have been negligible– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

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

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage of the 2008 emissions because sector. By 2018, emissions had actually minimized by 13%, however none of this modification was because of improvements in farming. General emissions reduced by 32% over that very same time duration. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Attempting to produce a much healthier population while farming in a less damaging way requires cooperation throughout disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He says:.

Research study recommends that the food system is accountable for about one-third of international 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 various research studies draw various boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

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

What parts of the food method could make the greatest impact on environment modification?

” The question is how quickly will those reforms truly deal with the climate difficulty … 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 nationwide targets? I dont know. Its certainly a step in the ideal instructions, but theres most likely an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

A lot of the recommendations made in the report relate in some method to climate change or environmental sustainability. These recommendations include:.

The proposed framework uses 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 development to “produce a much better food system”. Introducing necessary reporting on a range of metrics for food companies employing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would allow companies and the federal government to examine their progress on the goals laid out in the report.

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

What are the constraints of the food technique in attending to climate modification?

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

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

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

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

The recommendation towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as a key location in requirement of research study financing. Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is already extremely strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

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

” Another thing that seems 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 fulfillment by which time the world may have altered.”.

” There are already a lot of meat substitutes on the market and a lot more so when you consider natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet plan does not always require to include processed meat options would have been very important, however 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 truly need to address all type of concerns. And if you wish to deal with correctly the environmental concerns, plus the health issues, you actually have to deal with the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

Gill likewise notes that the report, while thorough, does not completely think about the unintentional effects of its suggestions. For example, a much greater percentage of fresh vegetables and fruits is squandered than meat. The suggestions to eat less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

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

Reducing meat usage would also help relieve the stress 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 using up the huge bulk of that land.

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

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

In order to attend to these completing interests, the report requires a national land-use technique to best allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a miracle”. The proposed structure uses the “three compartment design”, which strives for a balance in 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 sized centres to spur development to “create a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data programme, which would permit services 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, reveals how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, implying the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are expected to play a major role in lots of countries and business net-zero targets, however much of these require the repurposing of agricultural land.

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UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually currently suggested 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:.

” The type of land that might provide the best ecological 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%.”.

” Implementation of any of those recommendations truly requires political will … The recommendations themselves could have been more progressive, but even the ones that are there dont appear to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

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

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

UK acreage divided up by purpose. About 70% is dedicated to farming, primarily animals and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, shows how much land is utilized abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land usage takes place overseas. The combined acreage for rearing beef and lamb for UK usage is bigger 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 acrobatics” in providing sufficient land to produce the essential food, but also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

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

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

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Developing the method will involve collecting information on farming productivity, concern nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated locations. It will likewise build on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– released earlier this year– in order to determine the land finest suited for nature remediation..

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