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

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

The federal government has dedicated to producing a white paper and propositions for future laws in response within the next 6 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.

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

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

The very first part of the technique, published in July 2020, offered recommendations for the government to deal with food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released 2nd part has the mentioned goal of offering a “extensive prepare for transforming the food system”..

Recently, part two of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was released, providing a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– an all-inclusive term that covers the production, processing, transport and consumption of food– in England..

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

” The international food system is the single biggest contributor to biodiversity loss, logging, drought, freshwater contamination and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment modification, after the energy industry.”.

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

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

This report by @food_strategy has some fascinating and far reaching ideas that would indicate a huge change for the better in our food system and make us all 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 reaction to recentlys release saw members of parliament, celebrity chefs and even rockstars weighing in on its significance.

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

The scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the house countries “food systems are so tightly interwoven as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “might in turn discover some beneficial concepts” in the technique.

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

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

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

The food system has actually seen significantly smaller reductions in sector-wide emissions considering that 2008 as compared to the economy as a whole: economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by almost one-third given that 2008, however food-related emissions have decreased by only 13% over the very same time..

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

Other significant factors to the emissions include food, fertiliser and transportation manufacturing and product packaging..

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage of the 2008 emissions because sector. By 2018, emissions had lowered by 13%, but none of this change was due to enhancements in agriculture. General emissions reduced by 32% over that very same period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Research suggests that the food system is responsible 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 studies draw various limits around what counts as the food sector.).

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

Trying to produce a healthier population while farming in a less damaging way requires collaboration throughout disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He says:.

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are because of agriculture, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have triggered a 3rd of overall international warming since the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

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

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

What parts of the food technique could make the biggest impact on environment modification?

A lot of the suggestions made in the report relate in some method to climate change or ecological sustainability. These suggestions include:.

Davey calls the recommendations a “great starting point”. Nevertheless, he includes:.

Ensuring funding for agricultural payments until a minimum of 2029 at the current level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to aid in the transition to sustainable farming. The report likewise specifies that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this must be “ring-fenced” for plans that encourage habitat restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland remediation. Producing a “rural land usage framework” that will recommend on the best manner in which any offered piece of land ought to be used– whether for nature, agriculture, something or bioenergy else. The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment model”, which strives 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), along with smaller centres to stimulate innovation to “develop a better food system”. The funds would be focused on innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, among other locations. Decreasing meat intake by 30% over the next decade. The report stops brief of suggesting a tax on meat to accomplish this goal (as it advises for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Instead, it states, the federal government ought to intend for “nudging consumers into changing their routines”. Presenting necessary reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies employing more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would allow organizations and the federal government to evaluate their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The programme would include both the land-use information and the compulsory reporting data explained above. Bringing these 2 kinds of data together, the report writes, will assist “create a clear, accessible and evolving image of the effect our diet has on nature, climate and public health”.

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms really deal with the climate challenge … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the viewpoint of what the land sector needs to do to attain the UK national targets? I dont know. Its certainly an action in the ideal direction, however theres most likely an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

What are the constraints of the food strategy in addressing environment modification?

For instance, the recommendation towards buying development lists alternative proteins as an essential location in need of research funding. However, Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is currently really strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

” There are currently a lot of meat replaces on the marketplace and much more so when you consider natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more plainly that sustainable and healthy diet doesnt necessarily require to consist of processed meat options would have been important, however that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The recommendations “seem to be nearly 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 adds:.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you really require to attend to all kinds of concerns. And if you desire to address correctly the environmental issues, plus the health issues, you truly have to resolve the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

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

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while thorough, does not fully think about the unintentional effects of its recommendations. For example, a much higher percentage of fresh vegetables and fruits is lost than meat. So the suggestions to eat less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

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

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 entrepreneur and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– means the report itself “reveals a bit of a manipulated focus” towards business-focused services, Springmann states.

” Another thing that appears 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 recommendations in the report] to come to fruition 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?

Developing the strategy will include gathering data on agricultural productivity, concern nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated areas. It will also construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched previously this year– in order to recognize the land finest matched for nature repair..

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

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

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

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The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, shows how much land is utilized abroad to produce food for the UK. The combined land area for raising beef and lamb for UK consumption is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The chart listed below programs that when the carbon sequestration “chance expense” (yellow bars) is contributed to the emissions of different food groups (teal bars), the carbon expense of lamb and goat meat really surpasses that of beef, due to the large amounts of land required to graze those animals and their appetite for tree saplings.

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

In order to attend to these contending interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use technique to best designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

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

” The sort of land that could deliver the best environmental benefits is frequently 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% just produces 15%.”.

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

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

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

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

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The government has actually devoted to producing an action to the strategy, including propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a catastrophe”. The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment model”, which aims 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 sized centres to spur innovation to “develop a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would allow businesses and the federal government to examine their development on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, reveals how much land is utilized 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 show the carbon “opportunity cost”, indicating the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually currently 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:.