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

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

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

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

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

The very first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, offered suggestions for the government to attend to food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly released second part has actually the stated objective of supplying a “comprehensive strategy for transforming the food system”..

Recently, sequel of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was released, providing a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transport and usage of food– in England..

What is the National Food Strategy?

The scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home countries “food systems are so tightly linked as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “may in turn find some beneficial ideas” in the method.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a disaster”. While the current food system can feeding the “greatest global population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high ecological expense. The report notes:.

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

Its goal was to supply a roadmap for changing the food system from its present state to one that is healthier for the world and the population..

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

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

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

” The worldwide food system is the single greatest contributor to biodiversity loss, logging, dry spell, freshwater pollution and the collapse of marine wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to climate change, after the energy industry.”.

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

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

Research study suggests that the food system is responsible for about one-third of international 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 various studies draw different borders around what counts as the food sector.).

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

Practically all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been due to cleaner energy and increased efficiency in the energy sector. Changes due to farming have been negligible– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

The food system has actually seen considerably smaller decreases in sector-wide emissions since 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 decreased by only 13% over the very same time..

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

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

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed considering the food system. So, from the point of view of integrated national policymaking that delivers, its great.”.

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

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

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

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

Ensuring funding for agricultural payments until a minimum of 2029 at the current level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the shift to sustainable farming. The report also states that at least ₤ 500m of this should be “ring-fenced” for schemes that encourage habitat repair and carbon sequestration, such as peatland restoration. Creating a “rural land use structure” that will recommend on the very best method that any given piece of land should be used– whether for nature, agriculture, bioenergy or something else. 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 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), along with smaller centres to spur development to “develop a better food system”. The funds would be aimed at innovating fruit and vegetable production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few locations. Lowering meat consumption by 30% over the next years. The report stops brief of advising a tax on meat to attain this goal (as it advises for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Instead, it states, the federal government must intend for “nudging consumers into altering their routines”. Introducing compulsory reporting on a variety of metrics for food business utilizing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would allow services and the government to examine their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The program would include both the land-use data and the compulsory reporting information described above. Bringing these two kinds of information together, the report writes, will help “develop a clear, accessible and evolving image of the impact our diet plan has on nature, climate and public health”.

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

Davey calls the suggestions a “excellent starting point”. However, he adds:.

” The question is how quickly will those reforms truly resolve the environment obstacle … I believe 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 attain the UK national targets? I dont know. Its definitely an action in the right direction, but theres probably an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

What are the restrictions of the food method in dealing with environment modification?

The suggestions “appear to be practically 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:.

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while thorough, does not totally consider the unintentional repercussions of its suggestions. A much greater percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables is squandered than meat. So the recommendations to eat less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

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

The commissioning of the report– it was led by business person and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– suggests the report itself “shows a bit of a manipulated focus” towards business-focused solutions, Springmann says.

” There are already lots of meat replaces on the market and a lot more so when you consider natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more plainly that sustainable and healthy diet plan does not always need to include processed meat options would have been essential, but that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

The suggestion towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in requirement of research funding. However, Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is currently really strong. 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 a change in farming … And its going to take years [for the suggestions in the report] to come to fruition 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.

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

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

As a result, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out a feat of acrobatics” in offering adequate land to produce the necessary food, however likewise to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

The report keeps in mind that with the ideal incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique might be mutually advantageous towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

” The kind of land that might deliver the greatest ecological advantages is often not very agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a catastrophe”. The proposed framework utilizes the “3 compartment model”, which aims 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 sized centres to spur innovation to “create a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would enable organizations and the government to evaluate their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the same scale, reveals how much land is utilized abroad to produce food for the UK. The teal bars show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance cost”, implying the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

Developing the strategy will involve gathering information on farming performance, top priority nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated areas. It will likewise construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– released earlier this year– in order to recognize the land best matched for nature remediation..

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

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

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

In order to address these contending interests, the report requires a national land-use technique to finest designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

UK acreage divided up by function. About 70% is devoted to agriculture, generally animals and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the same scale, shows how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land use takes place overseas. The combined land area for raising beef and lamb for UK intake is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The government has actually devoted to producing a response to the technique, including propositions for new legislation, within the next 6 months..

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Lowering meat intake would also help ease the pressure 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 taking up the large majority of that land.

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

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Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of various food products. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance cost”, implying the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

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