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

The first part of the technique, published in July 2020, offered suggestions for the federal government to attend to food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly released 2nd part has the mentioned objective of supplying a “detailed plan for changing the food system”..

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

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

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

Last week, part two of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was released, providing a broad summary of the state of the “food system”– an all-inclusive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and intake of food– in England..

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

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

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

The NFS has actually definitely brought these concerns to the forefront, Edward Davey, the worldwide engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief.

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

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

” The global food system is the single most significant contributor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, drought, freshwater pollution and the collapse of aquatic wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to environment modification, after the energy market.”.

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the home nations “food systems are so firmly linked regarding remain in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “might in turn find some useful concepts” in the technique.

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

Why is the food technique crucial for taking on environment change?

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

Other major contributors to the emissions consist of transportation, food and fertiliser manufacturing and product packaging..

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

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

Almost half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have actually caused a 3rd of overall international warming considering that the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed thinking about the food system. From the point of view of integrated nationwide policymaking that delivers, its fantastic.”.

Research study recommends 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 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 borders around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

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

What parts of the food method could make the greatest effect on climate modification?

The proposed framework uses the “three compartment design”, which aims for a balance 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 sized centres to spur innovation to “create a much better food system”. Presenting necessary reporting on a variety 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 data programme, which would enable businesses and the federal government to assess their development on the objectives laid out in the report.

A number of the recommendations made in the report relate in some way to environment change or environmental sustainability. These recommendations include:.

Davey calls the recommendations a “great starting point”. Nevertheless, he includes:.

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms truly deal with the environment 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?

What are the limitations of the food strategy in attending to climate change?

” There are already plenty of meat substitutes on the market and much more so when you consider natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet does not always require to include processed meat options would have been very important, however that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The recommendations “appear to be nearly sort of looking in reverse instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen and chair of the Scottish Science Advisory Council, informs Carbon Brief. She includes:.

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

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly need to resolve all sort of problems. And if you wish to attend to appropriately the ecological issues, plus the health issues, you really have to deal with the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

” Another thing that appears to be missing 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 fruition by which time the world might have altered.”.

Gill also notes that the report, while thorough, does not fully consider the unexpected consequences of its suggestions. For example, a much greater proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is lost than meat. The suggestions to consume less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

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

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

The recommendation towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as an essential location in requirement of research study funding. Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is currently really strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

The food system “is very complicated”, Gill says, “however I dont believe thats any reason for not actually highlighting a few of those concerns right at the start”.

How does the food strategy address the contending interests of farming land usage and land usage for carbon sequestration?

” Globally, the biggest potential carbon benefit of consuming less meat would not in fact be the reduction in emissions, but the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

The right-hand side of the chart, using the very same scale, reveals how much land is used overseas to produce food for the UK. The combined land location for rearing beef and lamb for UK intake is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of various food items. The teal bars show the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, implying the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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In order to deal with these competing interests, the report calls for a national land-use method to finest assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

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, cautions Springmann:.

Nature-based services, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are expected to play a significant function in many nations and companies net-zero targets, but numerous of these require the repurposing of farming land.

The government has dedicated to producing a response to the strategy, consisting of proposals for new legislation, within the next 6 months..

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

Establishing the strategy will involve collecting data on agricultural efficiency, concern nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated locations. It will likewise develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched previously this year– in order to determine the land finest matched for nature repair..

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

” The sort of land that might deliver the biggest ecological advantages is frequently not very 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 uses the “3 compartment model”, 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 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 allow businesses and the federal government to assess their development on the goals laid out in the report. 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. The teal bars show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity cost”, indicating the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

Reducing meat intake would likewise assist reduce the stress on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the large majority of that land.

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

As a result, the report says, the food system is being “asked to perform a feat of balancings” in offering sufficient land to produce the required food, but also to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

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

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