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

Last week, part two of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was released, providing 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 2 years worth of conferences and discussions with industry leaders, academics, policymakers and the public.

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

In this Q&A, Carbon Brief takes a look at the report and explains how its recommendations align– or do not line up– with the UKs environment targets and decarbonisation objectives.

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

The very first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, offered suggestions for the federal government to attend to food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published 2nd part has actually the stated objective of offering a “extensive strategy for changing the food system”..

What is the National Food Strategy?

Nevertheless, the NFS has actually definitely brought these problems to the forefront, Edward Davey, the worldwide engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief. He discusses:.

” [The report] brings everybody around the table for a dialogue about what sort of system do we have, what kind of system do we wish to bring, what are the trade-offs and might governments do things differently.”.

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

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

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

” The international 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 environment change, after the energy market.”.

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

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

The NFS was commissioned by the UK federal government in 2019 as the first independent evaluation of the 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.

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

Why is the food strategy crucial for tackling climate change?

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

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

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

Research study recommends 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 scientist 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 different borders around what counts as the food sector.).

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

In addition, essentially all of the gains made in the food sector have been because of cleaner energy and increased performance in the energy sector. Changes due to agriculture have actually been minimal– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

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

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

Trying to create a healthier population while farming in a less destructive method requires cooperation across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a portion of the 2008 emissions because sector. By 2018, emissions had actually decreased by 13%, but none of this modification was because of improvements in agriculture. Total emissions decreased by 32% over that exact same time duration. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

What parts of the food strategy could make the greatest effect on climate change?

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms truly resolve the environment difficulty … 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 nationwide targets? I dont understand. Its certainly a step in the right direction, however theres most likely an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

Many of the suggestions made in the report relate in some method to environment change or ecological sustainability. These recommendations consist of:.

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

The proposed framework 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), as well as smaller sized centres to stimulate development to “create a much better food system”. Introducing necessary reporting on a variety of metrics for food business using more than 250 individuals. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information program, which would allow companies and the government to assess their development on the objectives laid out in the report.

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

The report also “actually shied” away from taking a strong position on decreasing meat consumption, Springmann states, with effects on both the environment and public health. He says:.

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

” There are currently a lot of meat substitutes on the market and even more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet doesnt necessarily need to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been essential, but that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

” 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 ecological concerns, plus the health concerns, you truly need to resolve the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

” 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 changed.”.

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while extensive, does not fully think about the unintentional consequences of its recommendations. A much higher proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is lost than meat. The recommendations to eat less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

The recommendations “appear 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:.

For example, the recommendation towards buying development lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in requirement of research funding. Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is currently extremely well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

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

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The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually estimated that simply over 20% of agricultural 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:.

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

” Globally, the greatest possible carbon advantage of eating less meat would not actually be the decrease in emissions, but the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out a task of acrobatics” in offering sufficient land to produce the needed food, however likewise to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

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

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

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

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” Implementation of any of those recommendations truly requires political will … The recommendations themselves might have been more progressive, but even the ones that are there do not appear to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

Reducing meat consumption would likewise help minimize 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 taking up the large majority of that land.

The report notes that with the ideal rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the method could be mutually advantageous towards farmers and the environment. It specifies:.

The government has devoted to producing a response to the strategy, including propositions for new legislation, within the next six months..

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:.

Developing the strategy will involve gathering information on farming efficiency, concern nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated locations. It will also build on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched previously this year– in order to determine the land best fit for nature repair..

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a catastrophe”. The proposed framework uses the “three compartment design”, which strives for a balance 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 “produce a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information programme, which would allow businesses and the federal government to evaluate their development 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 “chance expense”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

” The kind of land that might deliver the best environmental benefits is typically not really agriculturally productive. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

UK land area divided up by purpose. About 70% is devoted to farming, generally livestock and animals feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, demonstrates how much land is used overseas to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land use occurs overseas. 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 shows that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity expense” (yellow bars) is included to the emissions of numerous food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat actually surpasses that of beef, due to the big amounts of land needed to graze those animals and their appetite for tree saplings.