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

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

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

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

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

The very first part of the technique, published in July 2020, offered recommendations 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 specified goal of offering a “comprehensive plan for transforming the food system”..

Recently, sequel of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was published, offering a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– an all-inclusive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and intake of food– in England..

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the house nations “food systems are so firmly linked as to remain in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn discover some helpful concepts” in the strategy.

The NFS has certainly brought these concerns to the forefront, Edward Davey, the worldwide 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.

” The worldwide food system is the single most significant contributor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, drought, freshwater pollution and the collapse of marine wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to environment modification, after the energy industry.”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other major contributors to the emissions include transportation, food and fertiliser production and packaging..

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

Research 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, informs Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, but various research studies draw different boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

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 create a much healthier population while farming in a less damaging way requires cooperation throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

” Theres rather a great deal of siloed considering the food system. From the point of view of integrated national policymaking that provides, its fantastic.”.

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, including rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have actually caused a 3rd of total international warming since the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

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

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

What parts of the food method could make the biggest influence on environment modification?

” The question is how quickly will those reforms truly address the environment obstacle … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the perspective of what the land sector needs to do to accomplish the UK nationwide targets? I dont understand. Its definitely a step in the right direction, but theres most likely an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

Davey calls the recommendations a “excellent starting point”. He includes:.

Ensuring financing for farming payments 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 stipulates that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this ought to be “ring-fenced” for schemes that encourage habitat restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland remediation. Producing a “rural land use structure” that will recommend on the best method that any provided piece of land need to be utilized– whether for nature, agriculture, bioenergy or something else. The proposed structure 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), in addition to smaller centres to stimulate innovation to “produce a much better food system”. The funds would be aimed at innovating fruit and veggie production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few locations. Lowering meat usage by 30% over the next years. The report stops short of advising a tax on meat to attain this objective (as it recommends for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Instead, it states, the government needs to go for “nudging consumers into altering their routines”. Presenting compulsory reporting on a range of metrics for food business using more than 250 individuals. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would allow companies and the federal government to evaluate their progress on the goals set out in the report. The program would include both the land-use information and the compulsory reporting information explained above. Bringing these 2 kinds of information together, the report writes, will assist “develop a clear, accessible and progressing photo of the effect our diet plan has on nature, climate and public health”.

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

What are the limitations of the food technique in dealing with environment modification?

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

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

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

” There are already lots of meat substitutes 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 sustainable and healthy diet doesnt always require to include processed meat alternatives would have been necessary, however that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The suggestions “seem to be nearly sort of looking backwards rather than looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen and chair of the Scottish Science Advisory Council, informs Carbon Brief. She includes:.

The recommendation towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in need of research study funding. Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is currently extremely strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you really require to attend to all type of problems. And if you wish to resolve properly the environmental issues, plus the health concerns, you really need to resolve the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

” Another thing that appears to be missing out on 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 recommendations in the report] to come to fruition by which time the world may have altered.”.

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while thorough, does not totally consider the unexpected effects of its recommendations. For example, a much higher percentage of fresh vegetables and fruits is wasted than meat. So the suggestions to consume less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

The commissioning of the report– it was led by entrepreneur and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– implies the report itself “reveals a bit of a skewed focus” towards business-focused solutions, Springmann says.

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

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has currently 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 sort of land that might provide the greatest ecological benefits is often not very agriculturally productive. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

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

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

The chart listed below shows that when the carbon sequestration “chance cost” (yellow bars) is contributed to the emissions of numerous food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat really goes beyond that of beef, due to the large quantities of land needed to graze those animals and their appetite for tree saplings.

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

” Implementation of any of those recommendations actually requires political will … The suggestions themselves could have been more progressive, but even the ones that are there dont appear to resonate really much with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment model”, which makes every effort 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 centres to spur development to “create a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information programme, which would allow businesses and the federal government to assess their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, reveals how much land is utilized overseas 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”, suggesting the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of different foodstuff. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Establishing the strategy will involve gathering information on agricultural productivity, concern nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted areas. It will likewise build on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched previously this year– in order to identify the land best fit for nature repair..

The government has actually devoted to producing a response to the method, consisting of proposals for new legislation, within the next six months..

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In order to attend to these completing interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use strategy to best assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

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

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

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

Minimizing meat usage would also help minimize the stress on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the huge bulk of that land.

As a result, the report says, the food system is being “asked to perform an accomplishment of balancings” in providing sufficient land to produce the necessary food, however likewise to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.