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 action 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 proposals, according to the Guardian.

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

The first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, provided suggestions for the government to address food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released second part has the stated objective of providing a “thorough prepare for transforming the food system”..

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

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

The scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the home countries “food systems are so firmly linked as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn discover some helpful ideas” in the strategy.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a disaster”. While the existing food system can feeding the “most significant global population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high ecological cost. The report notes:.

” The worldwide food system is the single most significant contributor to biodiversity loss, logging, dry spell, freshwater contamination and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment change, after the energy industry.”.

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

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

The NFS has definitely brought these issues to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the international engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief. He discusses:.

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

Its objective was to supply a roadmap for transforming 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 unjust or as disproportionately impacting lower-income households. Others state that the measures set out in the report do not go far adequate towards making the food system more sustainable.

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

Virtually all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been due to cleaner energy and increased effectiveness in the energy sector. Modifications due to agriculture have been minimal– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

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

Under its commitments to the Paris Agreement, the UK has vowed to decrease emissions from 1990 levels by 68% by 2030. The government has also set a lawfully binding target to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Springmann says:.

Almost half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, including rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have actually triggered a 3rd of overall worldwide warming considering that the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

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

” Theres rather a lot of siloed considering the food system. So, from the point of view of integrated nationwide policymaking that delivers, its fantastic.”.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a portion of the 2008 emissions in that sector. By 2018, emissions had actually lowered by 13%, however none of this change was due to improvements in agriculture. Total emissions decreased by 32% over that very same time period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Other significant factors to the emissions include food, fertiliser and transport manufacturing and packaging..

The food system has seen significantly smaller decreases in sector-wide emissions given that 2008 as compared to the economy as a whole: economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by nearly one-third because 2008, but food-related emissions have actually decreased by just 13% over the very same time..

Trying to produce a healthier population while farming in a less destructive method needs collaboration throughout disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

What parts of the food strategy could make the greatest influence on climate modification?

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms actually resolve the climate challenge … I think the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the viewpoint of what the land sector needs to do to attain the UK nationwide targets? I do not know. Its definitely an action in the ideal instructions, however theres probably an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment design”, which aims 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 centres to stimulate development to “produce a much better food system”. Introducing obligatory reporting on a range of metrics for food companies utilizing more than 250 people. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would enable businesses and the federal government to examine their development on the objectives laid out in the report.

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

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

What are the constraints of the food method in dealing with climate change?

Gill also notes that the report, while extensive, does not completely consider the unintended effects of its suggestions. A much higher proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is lost than meat. The suggestions to consume less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

” There are already lots of meat replaces on the market and a lot more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more plainly that healthy and sustainable diet doesnt always need to include processed meat options would have been essential, but that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

” 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 fruition by which time the world might have altered.”.

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

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly need to resolve all kinds of concerns. And if you wish to resolve effectively the environmental issues, plus the health concerns, you really need to deal with the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

For instance, the recommendation towards buying development lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in need of research financing. Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is currently extremely strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

The suggestions “seem to be almost 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 adds:.

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

The food system “is extremely complicated”, Gill states, “but I do not think thats any excuse for not in fact highlighting a few of those issues right at the start”.

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

Nature-based services, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major function in numerous countries and companies net-zero targets, however a number of these require the repurposing of agricultural land.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. The proposed structure utilizes the “3 compartment design”, which aims 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 centres to spur innovation to “create a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would permit businesses and the government to evaluate their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very same scale, reveals how much land is used abroad 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 reveal the carbon “chance expense”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

In order to attend to these contending interests, the report calls for a national land-use strategy to finest designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of various foodstuff. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance cost”, indicating the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

Minimizing meat usage would also assist ease the strain on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the large majority of that land.

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

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

However, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually already shown his hesitancy to support a few of the policy suggestions set out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, warns Springmann:.

Sharelines from this story.

The chart below programs that when the carbon sequestration “chance expense” (yellow bars) is contributed to the emissions of numerous food groups (teal bars), the carbon expense of lamb and goat meat really exceeds that of beef, due to the big amounts of land required to graze those animals and their cravings for tree saplings.

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

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

Receive our complimentary Daily Briefing for a digest of the previous 24 hours of climate and energy media protection, or our Weekly Briefing for a round-up of our material from the past seven days. Simply enter your email listed below:.

Developing the technique will involve gathering data on agricultural productivity, priority nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated areas. It will also develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched earlier this year– in order to recognize the land best fit for nature restoration..

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

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

” Globally, the most significant potential carbon advantage of eating less meat would not really be the reduction in emissions, however the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

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