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

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

Recently, sequel of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was published, providing a broad summary of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and consumption of food– in England..

The federal government has actually dedicated to producing a white paper and propositions for future laws in response within the next 6 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 very first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, provided suggestions for the government to address food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released 2nd part has actually the mentioned goal of providing a “extensive plan for transforming the food system”..

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, sets out 14 recommendations for the UK federal government to think about, including financial rewards, reporting and trade standards and targets for long-term change in the food system..

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 goals.

What is the National Food Strategy?

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a disaster”. While the existing food system is capable of feeding the “biggest worldwide population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high environmental expense. The report notes:.

” [The report] brings everyone around the table for a dialogue about what kind of system do we have, what sort of system do we wish to bring, what are the compromises and could federal governments do things in a different way.”.

” The international food system is the single most significant factor to biodiversity loss, logging, dry spell, freshwater pollution and the collapse of marine wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment change, after the energy market.”.

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

Davey includes that, in his view, “every country worldwide would gain from doing something of this kind”.

This report by @food_strategy has some fascinating and far reaching ideas that would imply a huge change for the 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.

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

Its goal was to offer a roadmap for changing the food system from its current state to one that is healthier for the population and the world..

However, the NFS has definitely brought these concerns to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the international engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief. He discusses:.

Some have criticised the suggestion to tax wholesale sugar and salt as unreasonable or as disproportionately affecting lower-income families. Others state that the measures 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 very first independent evaluation of the governments food policy in nearly three-quarters of a century.

Why is the food strategy essential for dealing with environment change?

” Theres rather a great deal of siloed thinking of the food system. From the point of view of integrated nationwide policymaking that provides, its great.”.

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

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

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

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

Essentially all of the gains made in the food sector have been due to cleaner energy and increased effectiveness in the energy sector. Changes due to farming have actually been negligible– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

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

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

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 reduced by nearly one-third considering that 2008, but food-related emissions have decreased by just 13% over the same time..

Trying to develop a healthier population while farming in a less destructive method requires partnership across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He says:.

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

A lot of the recommendations made in the report relate in some way to environment change or environmental sustainability. These suggestions consist of:.

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 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 “create a better food system”. Introducing compulsory reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies employing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data programme, which would allow organizations and the government to assess their development on the objectives laid out in the report.

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

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms truly address the climate obstacle … I think the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector requires to do to achieve the UK national targets? I dont know. Its definitely a step in the right direction, however theres probably an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

What are the constraints of the food strategy in resolving environment modification?

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you really require to attend to all kinds of concerns. And if you wish to attend to properly the environmental concerns, plus the health concerns, you truly have to resolve the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

The recommendations “appear to be practically 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 includes:.

” 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.”.

The report also “actually shied” far from taking a strong position on lowering meat consumption, Springmann states, with effects on both the environment and public health. He states:.

For instance, the suggestion towards buying development lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in requirement of research study funding. Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is currently extremely well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

Gill also notes that the report, while comprehensive, does not completely consider the unexpected effects of its recommendations. For instance, a much greater proportion of fresh vegetables and fruits is squandered than meat. So the recommendations to consume less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

” There are already lots of meat substitutes on the marketplace and a lot more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet plan doesnt always require to include processed meat options would have been very important, but that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

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

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

Minimizing meat consumption would also help relieve the strain 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 using up the vast bulk of that land.

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

” The type of land that could provide the biggest ecological benefits is often not very 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%.”.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. The proposed framework utilizes the “three 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 innovation to “produce a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would enable businesses and the government to assess their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the very same scale, shows how much land is used abroad 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 “opportunity expense”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

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

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Nature-based options, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are expected to play a major role in numerous nations and companies net-zero targets, however a lot of these need the repurposing of farming land.

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

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually currently indicated 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:.

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

The federal government has actually dedicated to producing a response to the method, consisting of proposals for new legislation, within the next six months..

” Globally, the biggest prospective carbon advantage of eating less meat would not in fact be the decrease in emissions, however the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

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

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually estimated that just over 20% of agricultural 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:.

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UK acreage divided up by function. About 70% is devoted to agriculture, generally animals and animals feed and pasture. 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. About half of the total land usage takes location overseas. 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.

Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of different food products. The teal bars show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, suggesting the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Establishing the method will involve gathering information on farming performance, priority nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted locations. It will likewise build on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– released earlier this year– in order to determine the land finest matched for nature remediation..

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