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

Last week, part two of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was released, 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..

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

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

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

The very first part of the method, released in July 2020, provided recommendations for the federal government to resolve food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released 2nd part has actually the stated goal of supplying a “comprehensive prepare for changing the food system”..

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home nations “food systems are so firmly linked as to remain in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn find some beneficial concepts” in the method.

The NFS has actually certainly brought these problems to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the global engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a disaster”. While the current food system can feeding the “most significant global population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high ecological expense. The report notes:.

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

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

” The global food system is the single biggest factor to biodiversity loss, logging, drought, freshwater pollution and the collapse of marine wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to climate change, after the energy market.”.

Its objective was to supply a roadmap for transforming the food system from its present state to one that is healthier for the world and the population..

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

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

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

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed considering the food system. So, from the perspective of integrated nationwide policymaking that delivers, its fantastic.”.

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

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have actually triggered a 3rd of total global warming because the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

Other major contributors to the emissions consist of fertiliser, transport and food production and packaging..

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

Trying to develop a healthier population while farming in a less destructive way requires partnership throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

Research study suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the 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 research studies draw various borders around what counts as the food sector.).

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 legally binding target to attain net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Springmann says:.

Essentially 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 agriculture have actually been negligible– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

What parts of the food strategy could make the most significant effect on climate change?

The proposed framework uses the “3 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 stimulate innovation 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 consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information program, which would enable organizations and the federal government to evaluate their development on the objectives laid out in the report.

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

Much of the recommendations made in the report relate in some way to environment change or ecological sustainability. These recommendations consist of:.

” The question is how quickly will those reforms truly attend to the environment challenge … I think 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 attain the UK national targets?

What are the limitations of the food method in resolving environment change?

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

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

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

Gill likewise notes that the report, while comprehensive, does not completely think about the unexpected consequences of its recommendations. A much higher proportion of fresh fruits and veggies is wasted than meat. So the suggestions to eat less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

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

For example, the suggestion towards purchasing development lists alternative proteins as an essential location in requirement of research study financing. Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is already extremely strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

The suggestions “appear to be practically 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, tells Carbon Brief. She includes:.

” There are currently a lot of meat replaces on the market and a lot more so when you consider natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet plan does not necessarily need to consist of processed meat options would have been necessary, but that was missed out on there and instead 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 “shows a bit of a skewed focus” towards business-focused solutions, Springmann says.

The food system “is really complex”, Gill says, “however I dont believe thats any excuse for not in fact highlighting a few of those concerns right at the start”.

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

In order to attend to these completing interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use technique to finest allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

Establishing the technique will include collecting information on farming productivity, top priority nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated areas. It will likewise build on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched earlier this year– in order to recognize the land finest suited for nature remediation..

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform a feat of acrobatics” in offering enough land to produce the needed food, but also to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

UK land location divided up by purpose. About 70% is committed to farming, primarily livestock and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, demonstrates how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the overall land use occurs overseas. The combined land area for rearing beef and lamb for UK intake is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Lowering meat consumption would likewise help minimize the stress on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the large bulk of that land.

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

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

The chart below programs that when the carbon sequestration “chance cost” (yellow bars) is included to the emissions of numerous food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat really exceeds that of beef, due to the big amounts of land needed to graze those animals and their hunger for tree saplings.

The federal government has dedicated to producing an action to the method, including propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next six months..

” The kind of land that might provide the biggest ecological benefits is typically not very agriculturally productive. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

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

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The report notes that with the best rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the method might be equally helpful towards farmers and the environment. It specifies:.

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are expected to play a major function in lots of countries and business net-zero targets, however many of these require the repurposing of agricultural land.

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Nevertheless, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has currently shown his hesitancy to support a few of the policy suggestions set out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, cautions Springmann:.

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

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a catastrophe”. The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment design”, which makes every effort 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 stimulate innovation to “produce a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would allow services and the federal government to assess their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, reveals 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 product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance expense”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.