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

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

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, transportation and usage of food– in England..

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

The very first part of the technique, released in July 2020, supplied suggestions for the government to resolve food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released second part has actually the stated objective of providing a “extensive prepare for changing the food system”..

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

This report by @food_strategy has some intriguing and far reaching ideas that would imply a huge modification for the much better in our food system and make all of us much 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 includes that, in his view, “every country worldwide 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 affecting lower-income families. Others say that the steps set out in the report do not go far enough towards making the food system more sustainable.

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

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the house countries “food systems are so firmly linked as to remain in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn find some useful ideas” in the technique.

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

” The global food system is the single biggest contributor to biodiversity loss, logging, drought, freshwater contamination and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment change, after the energy industry.”.

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a catastrophe”. While the current food system is capable of feeding the “biggest worldwide population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high ecological expense. The report notes:.

Why is the food strategy essential for taking on environment change?

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are because of agriculture, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have actually caused a third of total international warming considering that the commercial transformation”, the report notes.

” Theres rather a lot of siloed believing about the food system. From the point of view of integrated national policymaking that delivers, its great.”.

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

Under its commitments to the Paris Agreement, the UK has promised to decrease emissions from 1990 levels by 68% by 2030. The government has likewise set a lawfully binding target to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Springmann says:.

Other significant factors to the emissions consist of fertiliser, food and transport production and packaging..

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

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

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a portion of the 2008 emissions in that sector. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The food system has actually seen considerably smaller decreases in sector-wide emissions considering that 2008 as compared to the economy as a whole: economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions have actually reduced by almost one-third considering that 2008, however food-related emissions have decreased by just 13% over the exact same time..

Attempting to create a healthier population while farming in a less destructive method needs collaboration across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

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

” The question is how quickly will those reforms truly address the environment challenge … I think 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 do not understand. Its certainly a step in the best instructions, but theres most likely an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

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

A number of the suggestions made in the report relate in some way to climate change or ecological sustainability. These recommendations consist of:.

Ensuring funding for agricultural payments till a minimum of 2029 at the current level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the transition to sustainable farming. The report also specifies that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this should be “ring-fenced” for plans that encourage habitat restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland remediation. Producing a “rural land usage structure” that will recommend on the finest manner in which any given piece of land should be utilized– whether for nature, agriculture, something or bioenergy else. The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment model”, which pursues 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 centres to stimulate innovation to “develop a better food system”. The funds would be intended at innovating fruit and vegetable production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few areas. Reducing meat usage by 30% over the next years. The report stops short of advising a tax on meat to attain this objective (as it recommends for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Instead, it states, the government ought to aim for “nudging customers into changing their practices”. Presenting compulsory reporting on a range of metrics for food business utilizing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would allow companies and the federal government to assess their progress on the goals set out in the report. The program would include both the land-use data and the obligatory reporting data described above. Bringing these two kinds of information together, the report writes, will help “create a clear, accessible and evolving image of the impact our diet has on nature, climate and public health”.

What are the restrictions of the food technique in addressing climate change?

The food system “is very intricate”, Gill states, “but I dont think thats any excuse for not in fact highlighting some of those concerns right at the start”.

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

The suggestions “seem to be practically 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:.

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

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

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

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

Gill likewise notes that the report, while thorough, does not totally think about the unexpected effects of its suggestions. A much greater percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables is squandered than meat. So the suggestions to eat less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

The recommendation towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a key location in need of research study funding. However, Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is currently very well-developed. He tells Carbon Brief:.

” There are currently plenty of meat replaces on the market and much more so when you consider natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet doesnt always require to include processed meat alternatives would have been very important, but that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

” 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 appear to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

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

The chart 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 surpasses that of beef, due to the large amounts of land required to graze those animals and their cravings for tree saplings.

In order to deal with these competing interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use method to best allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

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

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out an accomplishment of acrobatics” in supplying adequate land to produce the needed food, but also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a catastrophe”. The proposed structure uses the “three compartment model”, which aims for a balance in between semi-natural land, low-yield farmland and high-yield farmland to fulfill 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 “produce a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would allow organizations and the federal government to examine their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the very same scale, shows how much land is utilized abroad to produce food for the UK. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has 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, cautions Springmann:.

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

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Establishing the method will include gathering data on agricultural performance, concern nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted areas. It will likewise develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched earlier this year– in order to identify the land best matched for nature remediation..

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 raising beef and lamb for UK consumption is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Nature-based options, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are expected to play a major role in numerous countries and business net-zero targets, however many of these need the repurposing of farming land.

The report notes that with the ideal incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique might be equally beneficial towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

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Minimizing meat consumption would also assist minimize the pressure on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the huge bulk of that land.

” Globally, the greatest potential carbon advantage of consuming less meat would not in fact be the decrease in emissions, but the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

The chart below demonstrate how all land in the UK is designated (left) and just how much overseas land is utilized to produce food for the UK (ideal).