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

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

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

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

Last week, sequel of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was released, offering a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– an all-encompassing term that covers the production, processing, transportation and intake of food– in England..

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

The very first part of the strategy, released in July 2020, provided recommendations for the government to deal with food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published 2nd part has actually the specified objective of supplying a “thorough prepare for transforming the food system”..

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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..

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

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 concepts that would suggest a big modification for the much better in our food system and make all of us much healthier. I hope that these plans will be taken up by this government. https://t.co/gl5rZJCrhO— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) July 15, 2021.

The scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house nations “food systems are so tightly interwoven as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn discover some helpful concepts” in the strategy.

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

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

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a catastrophe”. While the existing food system can feeding the “most significant global population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high environmental expense. The report notes:.

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

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.

The food system has seen significantly smaller sized 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 given that 2008, but food-related emissions have decreased by only 13% over the exact same time..

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to farming, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have triggered a third of overall international warming because the industrial transformation”, the report notes.

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

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed thinking of 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 government has actually also set a lawfully binding target to accomplish net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Springmann says:.

” Without addressing the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to fulfill those environment modification obligations [laid out by law] and to add to mitigating environment change.”.

Attempting to create a healthier population while farming in a less damaging method requires cooperation across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

Research study suggests that the food system is accountable 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 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.).

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

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

Davey calls the suggestions a “great starting point”. However, he includes:.

” The question is how quickly will those reforms really attend to the climate difficulty … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the viewpoint of what the land sector requires to do to achieve the UK nationwide targets? I do not understand. Its certainly an action in the best instructions, however theres most likely an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

Ensuring financing for farming payments up until a minimum of 2029 at the present level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the transition to sustainable farming. The report likewise specifies that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this needs to be “ring-fenced” for plans that encourage environment repair and carbon sequestration, such as peatland remediation. Developing a “rural land usage framework” that will advise on the very best way that any provided piece of land should be utilized– whether for nature, agriculture, something or bioenergy else. The proposed structure uses the “three 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), along with smaller sized centres to spur innovation to “produce a better food system”. The funds would be aimed at innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, among other areas. Lowering meat consumption by 30% over the next years. The report stops short of suggesting a tax on meat to achieve this goal (as it advises for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Instead, it mentions, the federal government must go for “nudging consumers into changing their habits”. Introducing compulsory reporting on a range of metrics for food companies using more than 250 individuals. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would allow businesses and the federal government to assess their development on the goals laid out in the report. The programme would consist of both the land-use information and the obligatory reporting data explained above. Bringing these 2 kinds of information together, the report writes, will assist “produce a clear, accessible and developing image of the effect our diet has on nature, environment and public health”.

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

What are the constraints of the food method in resolving climate change?

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

” There are already a lot of meat replaces on the market and much more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more plainly that healthy and sustainable diet plan does not necessarily need to include processed meat alternatives would have been important, but that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

The recommendation towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as an essential location in need of research funding. Nevertheless, Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is currently extremely well-developed. He tells Carbon Brief:.

” Another thing that appears to be missing 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 fruition by which time the world might have changed.”.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly require to deal with all type of problems. And if you want to resolve appropriately the ecological issues, plus the health issues, you truly have to resolve the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

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 options, Springmann says.

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while extensive, does not completely consider the unintended effects of its recommendations. A much higher percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables is squandered than meat. So the suggestions to eat less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

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

The food system “is extremely intricate”, Gill states, “however I do not think thats any excuse for not actually highlighting some of those concerns right at the start”.

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

” The type of land that might provide the greatest ecological benefits is frequently not really 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%.”.

Decreasing meat usage would likewise help minimize the stress on land resources, the report finds. 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.

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UK land area divided up by function. About 70% is devoted to farming, mainly animals and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, demonstrates how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land use takes location overseas. The combined land location for rearing beef and lamb for UK consumption is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Developing the technique will include collecting information on agricultural productivity, top priority nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated locations. It will also construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched previously this year– in order to identify the land best suited for nature remediation..

The report keeps in mind that with the ideal incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique could be equally useful towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

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

Nature-based options, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are expected to play a significant role in lots of countries and business net-zero targets, however much of these need the repurposing of agricultural land.

” Implementation of any of those suggestions truly requires political will … The recommendations themselves could have been more progressive, but even the ones that exist do not seem to resonate extremely much with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

The chart listed below programs that when the carbon sequestration “chance cost” (yellow bars) is contributed to the emissions of different food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat actually exceeds that of beef, due to the big quantities of land needed to graze those animals and their cravings for tree saplings.

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a catastrophe”. 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), 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 national food system information programme, which would enable 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 same scale, shows how much land is used abroad 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 show the carbon “chance cost”, implying the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform a feat of acrobatics” in providing adequate land to produce the required food, but also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

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

The federal government has devoted to producing an action to the method, consisting of propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

In order to deal with these competing interests, the report calls for a national land-use technique to finest allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

However, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has currently suggested his hesitancy to support some of the policy recommendations set out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, cautions Springmann:.

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually approximated that just over 20% of farming land must be rewilded or converted 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 various foodstuff. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance cost”, indicating the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.