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

Recently, sequel of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was published, supplying a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– an all-encompassing term that covers the production, processing, transport and consumption of food– in England..

The first part of the strategy, released in July 2020, supplied recommendations for the federal government to address food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly published second part has the mentioned goal of providing a “detailed strategy for transforming the food system”..

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

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

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

Davey adds that, in his view, “every nation in the world would benefit from doing something of this kind”.

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

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.

Nevertheless, the NFS has definitely brought these issues to the forefront, Edward Davey, the global engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief. He explains:.

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

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

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

This report by @food_strategy has some interesting and far reaching concepts that would imply a big change for the better in our food system and make us all healthier. I hope that these plans 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 countries “food systems are so firmly interwoven as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “might in turn discover some useful ideas” in the strategy.

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a disaster”. While the current food system can feeding the “greatest worldwide population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high ecological expense. The report notes:.

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

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

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

Under its commitments to the Paris Agreement, the UK has pledged 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 states:.

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 very same for the UK, Dr Marco Springmann, a population health scientist 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 limits around what counts as the food sector.).

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 caused a third of overall global warming considering that the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

The food system has seen significantly smaller sized reductions 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 since 2008, however food-related emissions have actually reduced by just 13% over the very same time..

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

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

Other major contributors to the emissions consist of fertiliser, transport and food production and product packaging..

Additionally, virtually all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been because of cleaner energy and increased efficiency in the energy sector. Changes due to farming have actually been minimal– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

Trying to produce a healthier population while farming in a less damaging way needs collaboration across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He says:.

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

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

The proposed structure utilizes the “3 compartment model”, which strives 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 stimulate innovation to “produce a better food system”. Presenting obligatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food business employing 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 laid out in the report.

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms actually resolve the environment difficulty … I think the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the perspective of what the land sector requires to do to achieve the UK national targets? I dont understand. Its certainly an action in the ideal instructions, however theres probably an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

A number of the suggestions made in the report relate in some way to environment modification or ecological sustainability. These recommendations include:.

What are the restrictions of the food technique in attending to environment modification?

The recommendation towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in requirement of research study funding. Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is currently really strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

Gill likewise keeps in mind that the report, while thorough, does not completely think about the unintended repercussions of its recommendations. A much greater proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is lost than meat. The recommendations to eat less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

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

The food system “is extremely intricate”, Gill states, “but I dont believe thats any reason for not actually highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

The suggestions “seem to be almost sort of looking backwards 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:.

Limousin beef cattle 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 recommendations in the report] to come to fulfillment by which time the world might have altered.”.

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

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

” There are currently a lot of meat replaces on the marketplace and even more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet plan doesnt necessarily require to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been necessary, however that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

Reducing meat consumption would likewise help reduce the pressure 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 using up the large majority of that land.

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

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

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

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

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

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out a feat of acrobatics” in supplying adequate land to produce the necessary food, but also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

” The type of land that might deliver the best 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% only produces 15%.”.

Nature-based services, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant function in lots of countries and companies net-zero targets, however many of these require the repurposing of farming land.

In order to address these competing interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use method to finest allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

Developing the method will involve collecting information on agricultural performance, top priority nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted areas. It will also develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched previously this year– in order to determine the land best fit for nature restoration..

The chart below programs that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity expense” (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.

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of different food. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, implying the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment model”, 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 innovation to “develop a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information program, which would enable organizations and the government to assess their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very same scale, shows how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, 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.

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

UK land area divided up by purpose. About 70% is devoted to agriculture, generally livestock and animals feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very same scale, shows how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land usage occurs overseas. The combined land area for rearing beef and lamb for UK consumption is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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