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

The NFS is the conclusion of more than 2 years worth of conferences and discussions with industry leaders, academics, policymakers and the public.

The first part of the technique, published in July 2020, provided suggestions for the federal government to attend to food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly published 2nd part has actually the specified goal of supplying a “detailed plan for changing the food system”..

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

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

Recently, part 2 of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was released, offering a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– an all-encompassing term that covers the production, processing, transportation and usage of food– in England..

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

The NFS has actually certainly brought these problems to the forefront, Edward Davey, the global engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief.

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

” 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 factor to climate modification, after the energy industry.”.

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

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

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

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

The scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house nations “food systems are so securely linked as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “might in turn find some helpful concepts” in the technique.

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

Why is the food technique important for tackling environment modification?

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are due to farming, including rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have caused a 3rd of total global warming considering that the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

The food system has actually seen substantially smaller 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, but food-related emissions have decreased by just 13% over the exact same time..

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

Research study recommends that the food system is responsible 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, informs Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, however various research studies draw various limits around what counts as the food sector.).

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

In addition, practically 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 been negligible– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

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

” Theres quite a lot of siloed considering the food system. From the point of view of integrated national policymaking that provides, its wonderful.”.

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

Attempting to develop a much healthier population while farming in a less destructive method needs collaboration across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

What parts of the food technique could make the greatest effect on environment change?

” The question is how quickly will those reforms really address the environment 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 achieve the UK national targets? I dont understand. Its definitely an action in the ideal direction, however theres probably an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

Ensuring funding for agricultural payments up until at least 2029 at the present level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to aid in the transition to sustainable farming. The report likewise states that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this must be “ring-fenced” for schemes that encourage habitat restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland repair. Creating a “rural land use framework” that will advise on the very best manner in which any given piece of land must be used– whether for nature, farming, something or bioenergy else. The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment design”, which strives 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), in addition to smaller sized centres to spur innovation to “develop a better food system”. The funds would be targeted at innovating fruit and veggie production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, amongst other locations. Reducing meat intake by 30% over the next years. The report stops brief of suggesting a tax on meat to achieve this objective (as it suggests for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Rather, it specifies, the government needs to intend for “nudging customers into changing their habits”. Introducing necessary reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies using more than 250 individuals. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would enable companies and the government to assess their development on the goals set out in the report. The programme would include both the land-use data and the compulsory reporting information explained above. Bringing these 2 types of information together, the report composes, will assist “develop a clear, available and developing photo of the effect our diet plan has on nature, climate and public health”.

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

Davey calls the suggestions a “excellent starting point”. However, he includes:.

What are the restrictions of the food strategy in addressing climate change?

” Another thing that seems 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 suggestions in the report] to come to fulfillment by which time the world might have altered.”.

The food system “is really complicated”, Gill says, “however I do not believe thats any excuse for not in fact highlighting some of those concerns right at the start”.

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

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

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

The suggestion towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as an essential location in need of research financing. Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is already really strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

The suggestions “seem to be almost sort of looking in reverse instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen and chair of the Scottish Science Advisory Council, informs Carbon Brief. She adds:.

” There are already plenty of meat replaces on the market and a lot more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet plan doesnt always need to include processed meat options would have been very important, however that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you actually require to attend to all type of problems. And if you desire to address correctly the ecological issues, plus the health concerns, you truly need to address the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

Gill likewise keeps in mind that the report, while thorough, does not completely think about the unintended effects of its recommendations. A much greater percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables is squandered than meat. The suggestions to eat less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

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

Nature-based options, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are expected to play a significant function in many nations and business net-zero targets, but a number of these need the repurposing of agricultural land.

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

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

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

UK land area divided up by function. About 70% is dedicated to agriculture, primarily livestock and animals feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very same scale, shows how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. About half of the overall land usage happens overseas. The combined acreage for rearing beef and lamb for UK intake is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

” The type of land that might deliver the greatest ecological advantages is frequently not really agriculturally productive. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

” Globally, the greatest prospective carbon benefit of eating less meat would not really be the decrease in emissions, however the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

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As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out a feat of balancings” in providing adequate land to produce the needed food, however also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

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

Reducing meat intake would likewise assist minimize the stress 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 vast majority of that land.

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

The government has actually dedicated to producing an action to the method, consisting of proposals for brand-new legislation, within the next six months..

In order to address these competing interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use technique to best assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

Establishing the technique will include gathering information on farming performance, concern nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly 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..

The chart below programs that when the carbon sequestration “chance cost” (yellow bars) is contributed to the emissions of different food groups (teal bars), the carbon expense of lamb and goat meat in fact goes beyond that of beef, due to the large quantities of land required to graze those animals and their cravings for tree saplings.

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a disaster”. The proposed structure utilizes the “3 compartment model”, which makes every effort 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 centres to spur development to “produce 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 allow companies and the federal government to evaluate their development on the goals 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 suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance expense”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.