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

The first part of the method, released in July 2020, supplied recommendations for the federal government to deal with food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly published 2nd part has actually the stated goal of supplying a “detailed strategy for transforming the food system”..

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

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

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

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, sets out 14 recommendations for the UK government to think about, consisting of financial incentives, reporting and trade standards and targets for long-term change in the food system..

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

The scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home nations “food systems are so firmly linked as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “might in turn discover some useful ideas” in the method.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is the food strategy crucial for taking on climate change?

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

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

Research 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 researcher at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, tells Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, but different research studies draw various limits around what counts as the food sector.).

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

Attempting to develop a much healthier population while farming in a less harmful method needs partnership across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

The food system has actually seen substantially smaller 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 only 13% over the exact same time..

” Theres rather a lot of siloed considering the food system. So, from the point of view of integrated nationwide policymaking that provides, its fantastic.”.

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

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, including rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have actually triggered a 3rd of overall worldwide warming considering that the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

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

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

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms actually attend to the climate obstacle … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the perspective of what the land sector needs to do to achieve the UK nationwide targets? I dont understand. Its certainly a step in the ideal direction, but theres most likely an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

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

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

The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment model”, which makes every effort for a balance 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 centres to spur development to “develop a better food system”. Presenting obligatory reporting on a range of metrics for food business employing more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would permit companies and the government to evaluate their development on the objectives laid out in the report.

What are the limitations of the food technique in resolving climate modification?

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

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

The suggestion towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a crucial area in need of research financing. However, Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is already very strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

The suggestions “seem to be practically sort of looking backwards rather than looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen and chair of the Scottish Science Advisory Council, tells Carbon Brief. She adds:.

” There are currently lots of meat substitutes on the marketplace and a lot more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet doesnt always require to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been necessary, however that was missed out on there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

Gill also notes that the report, while thorough, does not fully consider the unintended consequences of its recommendations. For example, a much greater percentage of fresh fruits and veggies is squandered than meat. The recommendations to eat less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

The food system “is extremely complex”, Gill states, “but I do not think thats any reason for not really highlighting a few of those concerns 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 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.”.

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

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you actually require to resolve all kinds of issues. And if you wish to resolve appropriately the environmental concerns, plus the health issues, you actually have to deal with the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

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

The chart listed below programs that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity expense” (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 big amounts of land required to graze those animals and their hunger for tree saplings.

” The sort of land that could provide the best environmental benefits is frequently not extremely agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

The government has committed to producing a reaction to the technique, including propositions for new legislation, within the next six months..

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

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, cautions Springmann:.

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

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

Sharelines from this story.

UK land location divided up by purpose. About 70% is devoted to agriculture, generally animals and animals feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, reveals how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. About half of the overall land usage takes place overseas. The combined acreage for rearing beef and lamb for UK consumption is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Developing the technique will involve gathering data on farming productivity, top priority nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated areas. It will also develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched earlier this year– in order to determine the land finest suited for nature remediation..

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

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of numerous food products. The teal bars show the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance 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.

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

Reducing meat intake would also assist ease the strain on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the huge bulk of that land.

The report keeps in mind that with the best rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the method could be mutually helpful towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

As a result, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform a feat of acrobatics” in supplying sufficient land to produce the necessary food, however also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a miracle”. The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment model”, which makes every effort 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 spur development to “produce 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 companies and the government to examine their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very same scale, reveals how much land is used overseas 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 “opportunity expense”, implying the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

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Nature-based solutions, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major role in numerous countries and business net-zero targets, but numerous of these need the repurposing of farming land.