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

The federal government has dedicated to producing a white paper and propositions 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 number of the NFS propositions, according to the Guardian.

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

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

The first part of the technique, 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 recently published second part has the mentioned goal of providing a “comprehensive prepare for changing the food system”..

In this Q&A, Carbon Brief analyzes the report and describes how its suggestions align– or do not align– with the UKs climate targets and decarbonisation objectives.

Last week, part 2 of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was released, providing a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– an all-encompassing term that covers the production, processing, transportation and consumption of food– in England..

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

However, the NFS has certainly brought these concerns to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the global engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief. He discusses:.

” [The report] brings everybody around the table for a dialogue about what sort of system do we have, what sort of system do we want to bring, what are the compromises and might federal governments do things differently.”.

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.

The scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the home countries “food systems are so tightly interwoven as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “may in turn discover some beneficial ideas” in the technique.

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

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

Some have actually criticised the recommendation to tax wholesale sugar and salt as unreasonable or as disproportionately affecting 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Research study recommends that the food system is accountable 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 scientist at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, informs Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, however various studies draw different borders around what counts as the food sector.).

Trying to create a much healthier population while farming in a less damaging method requires partnership throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

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

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

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

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

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

What parts of the food strategy could make the greatest effect on climate change?

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms actually address the environment difficulty … I think the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the perspective of what the land sector requires to do to accomplish the UK nationwide targets? I do not know. Its certainly a step in the right direction, but theres most likely an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

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

Ensuring funding for agricultural payments up until at least 2029 at the existing level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the shift to sustainable farming. The report also specifies that at least ₤ 500m of this needs to be “ring-fenced” for plans that encourage environment remediation and carbon sequestration, such as peatland remediation. Creating a “rural land use structure” that will encourage on the best manner in which any offered piece of land must be used– whether for nature, bioenergy, something or agriculture else. The proposed framework utilizes the “3 compartment design”, which pursues 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), in addition to smaller centres to stimulate innovation to “create a better food system”. The funds would be focused on innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few locations. Lowering meat intake by 30% over the next years. The report stops brief of recommending a tax on meat to accomplish this aim (as it advises for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Rather, it specifies, the government must go for “nudging consumers into changing their practices”. Introducing obligatory reporting on a range of metrics for food companies using more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would allow companies and the government to assess their progress on the objectives set out in the report. The program would consist of both the land-use data and the mandatory reporting information explained above. Bringing these 2 types of information together, the report composes, will assist “create a clear, available and progressing image of the effect our diet plan has on nature, environment and public health”.

Davey calls the suggestions a “great starting point”. He adds:.

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

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

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while extensive, does not fully consider the unintended effects of its suggestions. A much greater percentage of fresh fruits and veggies is wasted than meat. The suggestions to consume less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

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

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 deal with all sort of concerns. And if you wish to deal with properly the ecological concerns, plus the health issues, you truly have to resolve the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

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

” There are already a lot 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 does not necessarily need to consist of processed meat options would have been essential, but that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

For instance, the suggestion towards buying innovation lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in need of research funding. Nevertheless, Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is already really strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

The food system “is really complex”, Gill states, “but I dont think thats any reason for not actually highlighting a few of those issues right at the start”.

The recommendations “appear to be practically sort of looking in reverse rather than looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen and chair of the Scottish Science Advisory Council, informs Carbon Brief. She includes:.

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

In order to address these contending interests, the report calls for a national land-use method to best designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

Reducing meat usage would likewise assist alleviate the strain 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 taking up the huge majority of that land.

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

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of numerous food items. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, implying the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment design”, which aims 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 stimulate innovation to “produce a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information programme, which would enable services 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 very same scale, shows 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 product, 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.

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out an accomplishment of acrobatics” in providing adequate land to produce the required food, however likewise to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are expected to play a major function in many nations and business net-zero targets, but numerous of these require the repurposing of farming land.

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

” Implementation of any of those suggestions actually needs political will … The recommendations themselves might have been more progressive, however even the ones that are there dont seem to resonate extremely much with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

The report notes that with the best incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique could be equally useful towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

The chart below shows that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity expense” (yellow bars) is included to the emissions of numerous food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat actually surpasses that of beef, due to the big quantities of land needed to graze those animals and their hunger for tree saplings.

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, warns Springmann:.

Developing the strategy will involve collecting information on agricultural productivity, concern nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated areas. It will likewise develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– released earlier this year– in order to determine the land best suited for nature repair..

The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, reveals how much land is used overseas to produce food for the UK. The combined land area for rearing beef and lamb for UK intake is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

” The type of land that might provide the greatest ecological benefits is frequently not really agriculturally productive. The most productive 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 consuming less meat would not actually be the reduction in emissions, but the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

The government has actually dedicated to producing a response to the method, including proposals for new legislation, within the next 6 months..

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