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

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..

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

The first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, supplied suggestions for the federal government to address food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly released second part has the stated objective of offering a “detailed strategy for changing the food system”..

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

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

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

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 global food system is the single greatest factor to biodiversity loss, logging, drought, freshwater pollution and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to environment modification, after the energy industry.”.

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

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

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

Its goal 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..

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

This report by @food_strategy has some intriguing and far reaching concepts that would indicate a huge modification for the much 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.

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

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

Why is the food method crucial for tackling environment change?

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, including rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have actually caused a third of overall global warming because the industrial transformation”, the report notes.

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed considering the food system. So, from the perspective of integrated nationwide policymaking that provides, its wonderful.”.

Trying to create a healthier population while farming in a less destructive method needs collaboration across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He says:.

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

Moreover, practically all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been because of cleaner energy and increased efficiency in the energy sector. Modifications due to agriculture have actually been negligible– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

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

Other significant factors to the emissions include transport, food and fertiliser production and product packaging..

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

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

Research study recommends that the food system is accountable for about one-third of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the exact same for the UK, Dr Marco Springmann, a population health scientist at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, tells Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, however various studies draw various limits around what counts as the food sector.).

What parts of the food strategy could make the most significant effect on environment change?

Many of the suggestions made in the report relate in some method to climate modification or environmental sustainability. These recommendations consist of:.

Davey calls the recommendations a “good starting point”. He includes:.

” The question is how quickly will those reforms actually address the environment challenge … 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 achieve the UK nationwide targets?

The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment design”, which makes every effort 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 centres to stimulate innovation to “develop a better food system”. Introducing necessary reporting on a variety 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 information programme, which would enable companies and the government to evaluate their development on the goals laid out in the report.

What are the restrictions of the food technique in resolving environment change?

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you really require to attend to all type of problems. And if you wish to attend to effectively the environmental concerns, plus the health concerns, you really have to attend to the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

Gill likewise keeps in mind that the report, while comprehensive, does not totally consider the unexpected consequences of its suggestions. A much greater proportion of fresh fruits and veggies is squandered than meat. So the suggestions to eat less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

The recommendations “seem to be practically 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, tells Carbon Brief. She includes:.

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

For example, the suggestion towards buying development lists alternative proteins as a key area in need of research financing. Nevertheless, Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is already extremely strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

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

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 options, Springmann says.

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

The food system “is really complicated”, Gill states, “however I do not believe thats any reason for not in fact highlighting a few of those issues right at the start”.

” Another thing that seems to be missing out on is that foresighting, wheres the world going to from other sectors … Theres going to be an improvement 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.”.

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

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant function in numerous countries and business net-zero targets, but numerous of these require the repurposing of agricultural land.

” The kind of land that could deliver the best environmental benefits is typically not very agriculturally productive. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

” Globally, the most significant prospective carbon benefit of eating less meat would not in fact be the reduction in emissions, however the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very 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 usage is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of different foodstuff. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity cost”, implying the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The federal government has actually devoted to producing a response to the strategy, including proposals for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

In order to deal with these contending interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use method to finest designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

Establishing the technique will include gathering information on agricultural productivity, concern nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted areas. It will also construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched earlier this year– in order to identify the land finest matched for nature restoration..

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a disaster”. The proposed framework uses 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 sized centres to spur innovation to “create a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would permit businesses and the government to evaluate their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, shows how much land is utilized 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 expense”, meaning the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out a feat of acrobatics” in offering enough land to produce the essential food, however likewise to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

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

” Implementation of any of those suggestions actually needs political will … The suggestions themselves might have been more progressive, but even the ones that exist dont appear to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

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

The report notes that with the right incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the method might be equally helpful towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

Decreasing meat usage would also assist reduce the stress on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the vast majority of that land.