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

In this Q&A, Carbon Brief describes and takes a look at the report how its suggestions align– or do not align– with the UKs climate targets and decarbonisation goals.

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

The very first part of the technique, published in July 2020, offered suggestions for the government to attend to food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published second part has the specified goal of providing a “comprehensive prepare for changing the food system”..

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

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

The NFS has definitely brought these problems to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the worldwide 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 NFS was commissioned by the UK government in 2019 as the very first independent evaluation of the federal governments food policy in almost three-quarters of a century.

Davey adds that, in his view, “every nation worldwide would gain from doing something of this kind”.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. While the current food system is capable of feeding the “greatest international population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high ecological expense. The report notes:.

” The worldwide food system is the single biggest factor to biodiversity loss, logging, dry spell, freshwater pollution 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 concepts that would mean a big modification for the much better in our food system and make us all healthier. I hope that these strategies will be used up by this government. https://t.co/gl5rZJCrhO— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) July 15, 2021.

The scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home nations “food systems are so securely interwoven as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn find some helpful concepts” in the method.

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

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

Why is the food technique crucial for tackling environment modification?

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

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

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

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed thinking about the food system. From the point of view of integrated nationwide policymaking that provides, its fantastic.”.

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

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

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are because of agriculture, including rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have actually triggered a 3rd of total global warming given that the industrial transformation”, the report notes.

Virtually 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 actually been negligible– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

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

The food system has actually 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 actually decreased by almost one-third given that 2008, however food-related emissions have decreased by only 13% over the same time..

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

Numerous of the recommendations made in the report relate in some way to climate modification or ecological sustainability. These recommendations consist of:.

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

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms actually resolve the climate difficulty … I think the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the perspective of what the land sector needs to do to achieve the UK national targets? I dont know. Its definitely a step in the best direction, however theres most likely an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

Guaranteeing financing for farming payments till a minimum of 2029 at the existing level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the transition to sustainable farming. The report also stipulates that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this ought to be “ring-fenced” for plans that encourage habitat remediation and carbon sequestration, such as peatland remediation. Producing a “rural land usage structure” that will encourage on the very best manner in which any given piece of land need to be used– whether for nature, something, farming or bioenergy else. The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment model”, which pursues 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 stimulate development to “develop a better food system”. The funds would be aimed at innovating fruit and vegetable production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, among other areas. Decreasing meat intake by 30% over the next decade. The report stops brief of advising a tax on meat to attain this objective (as it advises for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Rather, it states, the federal government should go for “nudging consumers into altering their routines”. Introducing compulsory reporting on a range of metrics for food companies using more than 250 individuals. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data programme, which would permit organizations and the government to evaluate their development on the objectives set out in the report. The program would consist of both the land-use data and the obligatory reporting data described above. Bringing these two types of information together, the report writes, will help “develop a clear, accessible and evolving photo of the impact our diet plan has on nature, climate and public health”.

What are the limitations of the food strategy in attending to environment change?

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

Gill likewise notes that the report, while thorough, does not fully consider the unintended repercussions of its recommendations. A much greater proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is lost than meat. So the suggestions to consume less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

The commissioning of the report– it was led by business person and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– indicates the report itself “shows a bit of a skewed focus” towards business-focused services, Springmann states.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you actually require to address all type of issues. And if you wish to attend to appropriately the ecological concerns, plus the health issues, you really need to deal with the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

The recommendation towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in need of research funding. Nevertheless, Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is already extremely well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

” 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 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.”.

” There are currently plenty of meat replaces on the marketplace and even more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more plainly that sustainable and healthy diet plan does not necessarily require to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been essential, but that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The recommendations “appear to be nearly sort of looking in reverse instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen and chair of the Scottish Science Advisory Council, informs Carbon Brief. She includes:.

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

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

Developing the technique will involve collecting data on agricultural performance, top priority nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted locations. It will also develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched earlier this year– in order to determine the land best matched for nature repair..

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

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

Overall carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kilogram of numerous foodstuff. The teal bars show the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance cost”, suggesting the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to perform a task of acrobatics” in providing adequate land to produce the required food, however also to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

In order to resolve these competing interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use method to finest assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

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The report notes that with the best incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy could be mutually beneficial towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, shows how much land is utilized abroad 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.

Lowering meat usage would also assist reduce the stress on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the huge majority of that land.

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

” The type of land that might deliver the greatest ecological advantages is frequently not extremely agriculturally productive. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

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

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a disaster”. The proposed structure uses the “three 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 “create a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would enable organizations and the government to evaluate their development on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the same scale, shows how much land is used abroad 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 “chance cost”, indicating the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

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

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

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