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

The first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, provided recommendations for the federal government to attend to food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published 2nd part has actually the specified goal of offering a “thorough prepare for changing the food system”..

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

The government has devoted to producing a white paper and proposals for future laws in response within the next six 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 suggestions for the UK federal government to think about, consisting of financial incentives, reporting and trade requirements and targets for long-lasting change in the food system..

Last week, part two of Englands National Food Technique (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 usage of food– in England..

The NFS is the culmination of more than 2 years worth of meetings and dialogues with market leaders, academics, policymakers and the public.

What is the National Food Strategy?

The NFS has actually definitely brought these problems to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the worldwide engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief.

This report by @food_strategy has some interesting and far reaching concepts that would mean a huge modification for the 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 scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house nations “food systems are so tightly linked as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “might in turn discover some beneficial ideas” in the strategy.

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

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

Its aim was to offer a roadmap for transforming the food system from its present state to one that is healthier for the population and the planet..

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

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

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

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

Why is the food strategy essential for taking on climate change?

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

” Without dealing with the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to satisfy those environment change responsibilities [laid out by law] and to contribute to mitigating climate change.”.

The food system has 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 nearly one-third because 2008, however food-related emissions have actually reduced by only 13% over the exact same time..

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

Research suggests that the food system is responsible for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with 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%, however various studies draw various boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage of the 2008 emissions because sector. By 2018, emissions had minimized by 13%, but none of this change was due to enhancements in agriculture. General emissions decreased by 32% over that same period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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 total international warming because the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

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

What parts of the food technique could make the biggest effect on environment modification?

Ensuring financing for farming payments up 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 a minimum of ₤ 500m of this ought to be “ring-fenced” for schemes that encourage habitat restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland restoration. Producing a “rural land use structure” that will recommend on the very best manner in which any given piece of land must be utilized– whether for nature, bioenergy, farming or something else. The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment model”, which pursues 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 spur innovation to “produce a much better food system”. The funds would be focused on innovating fruit and vegetable production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few locations. Reducing meat consumption by 30% over the next decade. The report stops short of advising a tax on meat to achieve this aim (as it recommends for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Instead, it mentions, the government should intend for “nudging customers into changing their routines”. Introducing obligatory 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 nationwide food system information programme, which would permit companies and the government to examine their progress on the goals set out in the report. The program would include both the land-use data and the obligatory reporting information described above. Bringing these two kinds of data together, the report composes, will help “develop a clear, available and developing photo of the effect our diet plan has on nature, climate and public health”.

Davey calls the recommendations a “excellent starting point”. Nevertheless, he adds:.

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms truly resolve the environment obstacle … 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 accomplish the UK national targets? I do not understand. Its definitely a step in the right direction, but theres most likely an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

A lot of the recommendations made in the report relate in some way to climate modification or environmental sustainability. These recommendations include:.

What are the restrictions of the food strategy in addressing environment change?

” Another thing that seems to be missing out on is that foresighting, wheres the world going to from other sectors … Theres going to be an improvement 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.”.

The recommendations “seem 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 adds:.

Gill also notes that the report, while thorough, does not fully consider the unintentional effects of its recommendations. A much higher proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is squandered than meat. So the suggestions to eat less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly need to resolve all kinds of problems. And if you desire to resolve appropriately the ecological issues, plus the health concerns, you actually have to resolve the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

” There are already plenty of meat replaces on the market and much more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more plainly that healthy and sustainable diet does not always require to include processed meat alternatives would have been essential, however that was missed out on 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.

For example, the suggestion towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as a key location in requirement of research study funding. However, Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is already very well-developed. He tells Carbon Brief:.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Developing the technique will include gathering information on farming productivity, top priority nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted areas. It will also construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched earlier this year– in order to determine the land finest suited for nature remediation..

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

In order to attend to these competing interests, the report requires a national land-use strategy to finest allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very same scale, reveals how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. The combined land location for rearing beef and lamb for UK usage is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The chart below shows how all land in the UK is assigned (left) and just how much overseas land is used to produce food for the UK (ideal).

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually estimated 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:.

Sharelines from this story.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually already suggested 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:.

Nature-based options, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant function in lots of nations and business net-zero targets, however numerous of these need the repurposing of farming land.

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

The government has actually dedicated to producing a reaction to the strategy, including proposals for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a disaster”. The proposed framework uses the “three compartment design”, 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 centres to stimulate innovation to “create a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would allow services and the federal government to assess their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, reveals how much land is utilized overseas 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 show the carbon “chance cost”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

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As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out an accomplishment of acrobatics” in offering sufficient land to produce the necessary food, however likewise to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

” The sort of land that could provide the best environmental benefits 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% only produces 15%.”.

Minimizing meat consumption would likewise assist relieve the strain on land resources, the report finds. 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.

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