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

In this Q&A, Carbon Brief describes and takes a look at the report how its suggestions align– or do not align– with the UKs climate targets and decarbonisation objectives.

The first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, supplied suggestions for the federal government to attend to food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly released 2nd part has actually the specified goal of supplying a “detailed prepare for changing the food system”..

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

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

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

The scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home nations “food systems are so tightly interwoven as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “may in turn discover some useful ideas” in the technique.

Its goal was to provide a roadmap for transforming the food system from its current state to one that is healthier for the planet and the population..

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

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

This report by @food_strategy has some interesting and far reaching ideas that would imply a big modification for the much better in our food system and make all of us much healthier. I hope that these plans will be used up by this 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 can feeding the “most significant worldwide population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high environmental cost. The report notes:.

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

” [The report] brings everybody around the table for a discussion about what sort of system do we have, what type of system do we wish to bring, what are the trade-offs and could governments do things in a different way.”.

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

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

Some have actually criticised the recommendation to tax wholesale sugar and salt as unjust or as disproportionately affecting lower-income households. Others state that the steps laid out in the report do not go far enough towards making the food system more sustainable.

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

” Theres rather a lot of siloed thinking of the food system. So, from the viewpoint of integrated nationwide policymaking that delivers, its wonderful.”.

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

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a portion of the 2008 emissions in that sector. By 2018, emissions had actually decreased by 13%, however none of this change was due to enhancements in agriculture. General emissions decreased by 32% over that exact same period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Trying to create a healthier population while farming in a less harmful way requires cooperation throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

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

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

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

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, including rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have actually triggered a third of overall international warming because the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

Other major factors to the emissions consist of food, transportation and fertiliser production and product packaging..

Under its commitments to the Paris Agreement, the UK has vowed to decrease emissions from 1990 levels by 68% by 2030. The government has actually 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 environment change?

Guaranteeing funding for farming payments up until a minimum of 2029 at the existing level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the transition to sustainable farming. The report also states that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this should be “ring-fenced” for plans that encourage environment remediation and carbon sequestration, such as peatland restoration. Creating a “rural land use structure” that will advise on the very best manner in which any given piece of land need to be used– whether for nature, farming, bioenergy or something else. The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment model”, which pursues 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), in addition to smaller centres to spur innovation to “create a much better food system”. The funds would be focused on innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, amongst other locations. Lowering meat consumption by 30% over the next years. The report stops short of suggesting a tax on meat to accomplish this goal (as it advises for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Instead, it specifies, the federal government needs to go for “nudging customers into changing their habits”. Introducing mandatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food business using 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 services and the government to examine their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The programme would include both the land-use information and the compulsory reporting information explained above. Bringing these two kinds of information together, the report composes, will help “produce a clear, accessible and developing photo of the impact our diet has on nature, environment and public health”.

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms really resolve the environment difficulty … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector needs to do to achieve the UK nationwide targets?

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

A lot of the recommendations made in the report relate in some method to environment modification or ecological sustainability. These recommendations include:.

What are the constraints of the food method in dealing with environment change?

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you really require to attend to all type of problems. And if you wish to attend to appropriately the environmental issues, plus the health issues, you really have to resolve the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

Gill likewise notes that the report, while extensive, does not totally consider the unintentional consequences of its recommendations. A much higher proportion of fresh fruits and veggies is squandered than meat. So the suggestions to eat less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

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

” Another thing that seems 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 changed.”.

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

The report also “truly shied” away from taking a strong position on minimizing meat intake, Springmann states, with effect on both the environment and public health. He states:.

” There are currently lots of meat replaces on the market and a lot more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more plainly that sustainable and healthy diet does not always need to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been crucial, but that was missed out on there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The suggestion towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in need of research funding. Nevertheless, Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is currently really well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

The suggestions “seem 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:.

The food system “is very complicated”, Gill states, “but I dont think thats any reason for not really highlighting a few of those concerns right at the start”.

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

” The type of land that might deliver the biggest environmental benefits is frequently not really agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

As a result, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform an accomplishment of acrobatics” in offering sufficient land to produce the necessary food, however likewise to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

” Globally, the biggest possible carbon benefit of consuming less meat would not really be the reduction in emissions, however the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

The federal government has dedicated to producing a response to the method, consisting of propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a disaster”. The proposed structure uses the “three compartment model”, 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 spur development 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 government to assess their development on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, reveals 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 product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, meaning the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

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

The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very same scale, reveals how much land is utilized abroad to produce food for the UK. The combined land location for raising beef and lamb for UK intake is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

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

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

Developing the technique will involve collecting data on farming productivity, priority nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted locations. It will also develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched earlier this year– in order to determine the land best suited for nature restoration..

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

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

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

Minimizing meat usage would likewise help relieve the stress on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the huge majority of that land.

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

In order to resolve these competing interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use technique to finest allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.