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

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

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

The very first part of the strategy, released in July 2020, offered recommendations for the government to resolve food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly released second part has actually the mentioned objective of offering a “thorough plan for changing the food system”..

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, lays out 14 recommendations for the UK federal government to consider, consisting of financial rewards, reporting and trade standards and targets for long-term modification in the food system..

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

” The international food system is the single greatest contributor to biodiversity loss, logging, dry spell, freshwater pollution and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to climate modification, after the energy industry.”.

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the house nations “food systems are so firmly interwoven as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “might in turn discover some beneficial ideas” in the method.

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

Davey adds that, in his view, “every country in the world would take advantage of doing something of this kind”.

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

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

” [The report] brings everybody around the table for a dialogue about what type of system do we have, what type of system do we wish to bring, what are the compromises and could governments do things differently.”.

Its goal was to provide 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 disaster and a miracle”. While the existing food system can feeding the “biggest international population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high ecological expense. The report notes:.

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

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

Why is the food technique essential for tackling climate modification?

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

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

” Theres quite a lot of siloed believing about the food system. So, from the point of view of integrated national policymaking that provides, its fantastic.”.

Research suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of worldwide 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, tells Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, but various studies draw different borders around what counts as the food sector.).

The food system has seen considerably smaller sized decreases in sector-wide emissions since 2008 as compared to the economy as a whole: economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by almost one-third because 2008, but food-related emissions have actually decreased by only 13% over the same time..

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage of the 2008 emissions because sector. By 2018, emissions had actually reduced by 13%, however none of this modification was because of improvements in farming. General emissions decreased by 32% over that exact same time duration. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

Attempting to produce a much healthier population while farming in a less damaging way needs collaboration across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

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

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to farming, consisting of rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have actually caused a third of overall global warming given that the commercial transformation”, the report notes.

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

The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment design”, which aims for a balance in 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 spur development to “develop a much better food system”. Presenting obligatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies employing more than 250 people. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information programme, which would permit organizations and the government to assess their development on the goals laid out in the report.

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

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

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms really resolve the climate obstacle … 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 accomplish the UK nationwide targets? I dont understand. Its certainly a step in the best direction, however theres most likely an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

What are the restrictions of the food method in dealing with environment modification?

For instance, the suggestion towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a key location in requirement of research study financing. Nevertheless, Springmann says, the alternative-protein market is currently very strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while comprehensive, does not totally consider the unintentional effects of its recommendations. A much higher proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is lost than meat. So the suggestions to eat less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly require to deal with all kinds of problems. And if you want to attend to appropriately the ecological issues, plus the health issues, you really need to address the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

The suggestions “appear to be nearly 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:.

” There are already plenty of meat substitutes 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 plainly that healthy and sustainable diet plan doesnt always need to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been necessary, however that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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 an improvement in farming … And its going to take years [for the suggestions in the report] to come to fulfillment by which time the world may have changed.”.

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

The food system “is extremely complex”, Gill says, “however I do not believe thats any excuse for not actually highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

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

The chart below shows how all land in the UK is designated (left) and how much abroad land is used to produce food for the UK (best).

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

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant function in lots of nations and business net-zero targets, however much of these require the repurposing of agricultural land.

Sharelines from this story.

” The type of land that might deliver the best environmental benefits is frequently not really agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a miracle”. The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment model”, which strives for a balance in 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 “develop a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would permit businesses and the 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, shows how much land is used 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 show the carbon “chance cost”, implying the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

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Establishing the strategy will include gathering data on agricultural performance, priority nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated areas. It will likewise construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– released previously this year– in order to determine the land best fit for nature repair..

In order to attend to these contending interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use technique to finest assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

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

Minimizing meat intake would also help minimize the strain on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the vast majority of that land.

The report keeps in mind that with the ideal rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the method might be equally helpful towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

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

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

” Implementation of any of those suggestions really needs political will … The recommendations themselves might have been more progressive, but even the ones that exist do not seem to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

” Globally, the most significant potential 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.”.

Total carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kilogram of different food items. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance cost”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has 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:.

The government has committed to producing a response to the strategy, including propositions for new legislation, within the next 6 months..

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