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

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, lays out 14 suggestions for the UK federal government to consider, including monetary incentives, reporting and trade standards and targets for long-term change in the food system..

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

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

The very first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, provided recommendations for the government to address food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released 2nd part has the specified objective of providing a “extensive strategy for changing the food system”..

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

This report by @food_strategy has some intriguing and far reaching ideas that would indicate a big change for the better in our food system and make us all 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 country in the world would gain from doing something of this kind”.

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

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

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

The NFS has certainly brought these problems to the forefront, Edward Davey, the international engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. While the current food system is capable of feeding the “most significant international population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high environmental cost. The report notes:.

Why is the food technique crucial for taking on climate modification?

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 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 different studies draw various borders 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.

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

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

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have triggered a 3rd of overall international warming because the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

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

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

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

Moreover, 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 farming have actually been negligible– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

Trying to produce a healthier population while farming in a less harmful way needs cooperation across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

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

” The question is how quickly will those reforms truly deal with the environment difficulty … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the viewpoint of what the land sector requires to do to attain the UK nationwide targets? I do not understand. Its certainly an action in the right instructions, but theres probably an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

Davey calls the suggestions a “great starting point”. Nevertheless, he adds:.

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

The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment design”, 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 sized centres to spur innovation to “create a better food system”. Presenting obligatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies utilizing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would permit organizations and the federal government to evaluate their progress on the goals laid out in the report.

What are the constraints of the food method in attending to environment change?

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

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while thorough, does not totally think about the unexpected repercussions of its recommendations. A much higher percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables is lost than meat. The suggestions to eat less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

For instance, the recommendation towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as an essential location in requirement of research study funding. Nevertheless, Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is already extremely well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

” There are currently a lot of meat replaces on the market and even more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet does not necessarily require to include processed meat options would have been very important, however that was missed out on there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

” Another thing that seems 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 recommendations in the report] to come to fruition by which time the world might have changed.”.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you actually need to deal with all kinds of problems. And if you want to address effectively the environmental issues, plus the health issues, you truly need to resolve the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

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

The recommendations “appear to be nearly sort of looking in reverse 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 report likewise “really shied” far from taking a strong position on minimizing meat intake, Springmann says, with influence on both the environment and public health. He states:.

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

The federal government has dedicated to producing an action to the strategy, consisting of proposals for new legislation, within the next six months..

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

Nature-based services, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are expected to play a significant function in many nations and companies net-zero targets, however a lot of these need the repurposing of farming land.

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

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

” Implementation of any of those recommendations really needs political will … The recommendations themselves could have been more progressive, however even the ones that are there do not seem to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

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Reducing meat consumption would likewise help minimize the stress on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the vast majority of that land.

In order to attend to these contending interests, the report requires a national land-use method to finest assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a miracle”. 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 sized centres to stimulate development to “create a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information program, which would allow organizations 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 very same scale, reveals how much land is used 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 reveal the carbon “chance expense”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

The report keeps in mind that with the best incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy could be equally advantageous towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

Developing the method will involve gathering information on agricultural productivity, top priority nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted areas. It will also construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched previously this year– in order to recognize the land finest suited for nature restoration..

The chart listed below programs how all land in the UK is assigned (left) and how much abroad land is utilized to produce food for the UK (best).

” The type of land that might provide the best ecological benefits is typically not extremely 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%.”.

Sharelines from this story.

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

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out a feat of acrobatics” in offering enough land to produce the essential food, however also to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

The chart below shows that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity expense” (yellow bars) is contributed to the emissions of various food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat in fact exceeds that of beef, due to the big quantities of land required to graze those animals and their hunger for tree saplings.

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of different food items. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance expense”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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