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

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

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, sets out 14 recommendations for the UK federal government to think about, including monetary rewards, reporting and trade requirements and targets for long-lasting modification in the food system..

The first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, offered recommendations for the government to resolve food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly released second part has the mentioned goal of providing a “comprehensive prepare for transforming the food system”..

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

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

The federal government has actually 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 much of the NFS proposals, according to the Guardian.

What is the National Food Strategy?

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. While the existing food system is capable of feeding the “greatest international population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high ecological expense. The report notes:.

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

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

Nevertheless, the NFS has actually definitely brought these problems to the forefront, Edward Davey, the international engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief. He describes:.

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

Davey includes that, in his view, “every nation worldwide would take advantage of doing something of this kind”.

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

” The global food system is the single biggest factor to biodiversity loss, logging, dry spell, freshwater pollution and the collapse of aquatic wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to climate change, after the energy industry.”.

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the home countries “food systems are so firmly linked regarding remain in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “may in turn discover some beneficial concepts” in the technique.

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

This report by @food_strategy has some fascinating and far reaching ideas that would mean a big change for the 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.

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

Attempting to create a healthier population while farming in a less harmful way needs collaboration throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

Research suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the 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%, but various research studies draw various borders around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

Additionally, practically all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been because of cleaner energy and increased performance in the energy sector. Changes due to farming have actually been negligible– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

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

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, consisting of rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have actually caused a 3rd of overall global warming because the industrial transformation”, the report notes.

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 decreased by nearly one-third since 2008, however food-related emissions have actually decreased by just 13% over the same time..

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

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

What parts of the food strategy could make the greatest influence on climate modification?

The proposed structure utilizes the “three 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 sized centres to stimulate innovation to “create a much better food system”. Introducing mandatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food business using more than 250 individuals. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would permit businesses and the federal government to evaluate their progress on the objectives laid out in the report.

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

A lot of the suggestions made in the report relate in some way to climate change or environmental sustainability. These suggestions consist of:.

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms actually deal with the climate 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 requires to do to attain the UK nationwide targets? I dont know. Its certainly a step in the best direction, but theres probably an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

What are the limitations of the food strategy in attending to climate change?

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while extensive, does not fully consider the unintended consequences of its recommendations. For example, a much higher proportion of fresh vegetables and fruits is wasted than meat. The recommendations to eat less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

” There are currently a lot of meat substitutes on the market and even more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet plan does not necessarily require to include processed meat alternatives would have been very important, but 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 really require to deal with all type of concerns. And if you wish to resolve correctly the environmental issues, plus the health concerns, you truly have to deal with the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

The recommendation towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a key location in need of research study financing. However, Springmann says, the alternative-protein market is currently very strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

The food system “is extremely intricate”, Gill says, “however I dont believe thats any reason for not actually highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

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

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

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

” 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 may have altered.”.

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

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

The report keeps in mind that with the right incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the method could be equally helpful towards farmers and the environment. It specifies:.

Nature-based services, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major function in lots of countries and companies net-zero targets, but a lot of these require the repurposing of farming land.

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The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a miracle”. The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment model”, which aims 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), as well as smaller centres to stimulate innovation to “produce a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would permit businesses and the government to assess their development on the goals 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 product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance cost”, implying the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

Decreasing meat intake would also help relieve the stress on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the huge bulk of that land.

Establishing the method will include gathering information on farming efficiency, top priority nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated locations. It will likewise construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– released previously this year– in order to recognize the land best fit for nature repair..

” The type of land that could provide the best environmental advantages is often not very agriculturally productive. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

” Globally, the greatest possible carbon benefit of consuming less meat would not actually be the reduction in emissions, but the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

In order to attend to these completing interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use technique to best assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

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

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

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

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

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to perform a task of balancings” in supplying sufficient land to produce the necessary food, however likewise to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

Overall carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kg of different food. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance expense”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The chart below shows that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity expense” (yellow bars) is contributed to the emissions of different food groups (teal bars), the carbon expense of lamb and goat meat in fact exceeds that of beef, due to the big amounts of land needed to graze those animals and their cravings for tree saplings.

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The chart below demonstrate how all land in the UK is allocated (left) and just how much overseas land is used to produce food for the UK (right).

However, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has already shown 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:.