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

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

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

The very first part of the strategy, released in July 2020, provided recommendations for the federal government to address food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published second part has the stated objective of offering a “thorough prepare for changing the food system”..

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

Recently, part 2 of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was released, providing a broad summary 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 explains and examines the report how its suggestions line up– or do not align– with the UKs environment targets and decarbonisation objectives.

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

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

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

” The international 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 contributor to climate change, after the energy industry.”.

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

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home nations “food systems are so tightly interwoven as to remain in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn discover some beneficial concepts” in the technique.

Davey includes that, in his view, “every country in the world would gain from doing something of this kind”.

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

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

Why is the food strategy essential for dealing with environment change?

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

Almost half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, consisting of rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have caused a 3rd of total worldwide warming since the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

Under its dedications to the Paris Agreement, the UK has actually vowed to reduce 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:.

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

Attempting to produce a much healthier population while farming in a less harmful method requires partnership throughout disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He says:.

” Without addressing the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to meet those climate change commitments [set out by law] and to add to mitigating climate change.”.

Research study suggests that the food system is responsible for about one-third of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about 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 borders around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

” Theres quite a lot of siloed considering the food system. So, from the perspective of integrated national policymaking that delivers, its wonderful.”.

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

Guaranteeing funding for farming payments up until a minimum of 2029 at the existing level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the shift to sustainable farming. The report likewise states that at least ₤ 500m of this should be “ring-fenced” for plans that encourage habitat repair and carbon sequestration, such as peatland repair. Developing a “rural land usage framework” that will advise on the very best method that any given piece of land should be used– whether for nature, bioenergy, agriculture or something else. The proposed structure utilizes the “3 compartment design”, which strives 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), in addition to smaller centres to spur development to “create a better food system”. The funds would be targeted at innovating fruit and veggie production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few areas. Minimizing meat consumption by 30% over the next decade. The report stops brief of suggesting a tax on meat to attain this goal (as it suggests for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Instead, it mentions, the federal government needs to go for “nudging consumers into altering their routines”. Presenting necessary 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 nationwide food system data programme, which would permit services and the federal government to evaluate their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The program would include both the land-use information and the necessary reporting information described above. Bringing these 2 types of data together, the report composes, will help “create a clear, available and developing photo of the effect our diet plan has on nature, environment and public health”.

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms actually resolve the environment difficulty … I think the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector needs to do to achieve the UK nationwide targets?

Davey calls the suggestions a “good starting point”. He adds:.

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

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

The food system “is very complex”, Gill says, “but I do not believe thats any excuse for not actually highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

Gill likewise keeps in mind that the report, while thorough, does not totally consider the unexpected consequences of its recommendations. For instance, a much higher percentage of fresh fruits and veggies is lost than meat. The suggestions to eat less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly need to resolve all sort of problems. And if you wish to attend to effectively the environmental concerns, plus the health concerns, you truly have to deal with the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

” Another thing that appears to be missing is that foresighting, wheres the world going to from other sectors … Theres going to be a transformation 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.”.

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

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

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

The recommendations “seem to be nearly sort of looking backwards 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:.

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

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

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

Developing the technique will include collecting information on farming efficiency, concern nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted areas. It will also develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– released previously this year– in order to determine the land best fit for nature restoration..

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

Minimizing meat usage would also help relieve the strain on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the huge bulk of that land.

” Globally, the most significant potential carbon benefit of consuming less meat would not really be the reduction in emissions, but the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

” The sort of land that could provide the best ecological benefits is frequently not really agriculturally productive. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

In order to resolve these completing interests, the report requires a national land-use strategy to best designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a disaster”. The proposed framework uses the “three compartment design”, which strives 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 sized centres to stimulate innovation to “create a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would permit organizations and the federal government to evaluate their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact 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 product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

Nature-based options, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant function in many countries and companies net-zero targets, however much of these need the repurposing of farming land.

As a result, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out a feat of balancings” in supplying enough land to produce the needed food, but also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

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

Sharelines from this story.

The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, reveals how much land is utilized abroad to produce food for the UK. The combined land area for rearing beef and lamb for UK intake is larger than the UK itself. 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 various food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat actually goes beyond that of beef, due to the large amounts of land required to graze those animals and their hunger for tree saplings.

Nevertheless, 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, warns Springmann:.

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

Overall carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kg of numerous food items. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance cost”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

The federal government has committed to producing a response to the strategy, consisting of propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

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