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

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, sets out 14 recommendations for the UK government to consider, including monetary rewards, reporting and trade requirements and targets for long-term modification in the food system..

The first part of the strategy, released in July 2020, supplied recommendations for the government to attend to food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly released second part has the stated objective of offering a “extensive prepare for transforming the food system”..

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

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

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

The government has actually dedicated to producing a white paper and propositions 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 numerous of the NFS propositions, according to the Guardian.

What is the National Food Strategy?

The NFS has actually certainly brought these issues to the forefront, Edward Davey, the global engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief.

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

Some have criticised the suggestion to tax wholesale sugar and salt as unfair or as disproportionately affecting lower-income households. Others say 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 federal government in 2019 as the very first independent review of the federal governments food policy in nearly three-quarters of a century.

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the home nations “food systems are so securely linked as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “might in turn find some beneficial concepts” in the strategy.

This report by @food_strategy has some interesting and far reaching ideas that would suggest a huge 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 federal government. https://t.co/gl5rZJCrhO— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) July 15, 2021.

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

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

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

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

Why is the food method essential for tackling climate change?

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

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a portion of the 2008 emissions in that sector. By 2018, emissions had reduced by 13%, but none of this change was because of enhancements in agriculture. Overall emissions reduced by 32% over that exact same time duration. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

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

Almost half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, consisting of rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have triggered a third of total global warming since the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

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

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

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

Research suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about 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 studies draw various limits around what counts as the food sector.).

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

What parts of the food technique could make the biggest effect on climate change?

Numerous of the suggestions 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 quickly will those reforms actually deal with the climate challenge … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector requires to do to achieve the UK national targets?

The proposed structure utilizes the “3 compartment model”, 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 centres to spur development to “develop a much better food system”. Introducing compulsory 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 information program, which would allow organizations and the government to assess their progress on the goals laid out in the report.

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

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

For example, the recommendation towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a key area in requirement of research financing. Nevertheless, Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is already extremely well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

The report also “really shied” far from taking a strong position on decreasing meat usage, Springmann states, with effect on both the environment and public health. He states:.

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:.

” Another thing that appears to be missing is that foresighting, wheres the world going to from other sectors … Theres going to be a transformation 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.”.

Gill likewise notes that the report, while extensive, does not fully think about the unintended repercussions of its recommendations. For example, a much greater proportion of fresh fruits and veggies is lost than meat. The recommendations to eat less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

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

” There are already plenty of meat replaces on the market and a lot more so when you consider natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more plainly that sustainable and healthy diet does not necessarily need to consist of processed meat options would have been essential, but that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The food system “is extremely intricate”, Gill states, “however I do not think thats any excuse for not in fact highlighting a few of those concerns right at the start”.

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

How does the food technique address the contending interests of agricultural land usage and land usage for carbon sequestration?

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

Developing the strategy will include collecting information on agricultural efficiency, priority nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted areas. It will likewise construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– released earlier this year– in order to determine the land best fit for nature repair..

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment design”, which makes every effort 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 sized centres to stimulate development to “produce a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information program, which would permit companies and the federal government to evaluate their development on the objectives laid out in the report. 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 teal bars indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance expense”, suggesting the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

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

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out a task of balancings” in supplying sufficient land to produce the required food, but also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

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

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

Sharelines from this story.

Decreasing meat usage would likewise help ease the stress on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the vast bulk of that land.

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

” The kind of land that might provide the greatest ecological benefits is frequently not really agriculturally productive. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

Nature-based options, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major function in numerous countries and companies net-zero targets, however a lot of these require the repurposing of farming land.

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

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

In order to deal with these competing interests, the report requires a national land-use strategy to best designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of various foodstuff. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

UK acreage divided up by function. About 70% is committed to farming, generally animals and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, shows how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land use occurs overseas. The combined acreage for raising beef and lamb for UK consumption is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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