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

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

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

The first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, provided recommendations for the government to resolve food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published second part has the specified goal of providing a “extensive plan for changing the food system”..

Recently, sequel of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was released, providing a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– an all-inclusive term that covers the production, processing, transport and consumption of food– in England..

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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 healthier. I hope that these strategies will be taken up by this government. https://t.co/gl5rZJCrhO— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) July 15, 2021.

” The worldwide food system is the single biggest factor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, dry spell, freshwater contamination and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment modification, after the energy industry.”.

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 unfair 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 scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the house nations “food systems are so tightly interwoven as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “may in turn find some helpful concepts” in the method.

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

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a miracle”. While the current food system can feeding the “biggest international population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high environmental expense. The report notes:.

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

Why is the food strategy crucial for dealing with climate modification?

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

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

Practically all of the gains made in the food sector have been due to cleaner energy and increased effectiveness in the energy sector. Modifications due to agriculture have actually been negligible– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

” 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 contribute to mitigating climate change.”.

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

” Theres rather a lot of siloed believing about the food system. So, from the point of view of integrated nationwide policymaking that provides, its great.”.

Almost half of all food-related emissions are because of agriculture, consisting of rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have triggered a third of total international warming because the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

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

Research study suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about the same for the UK, Dr Marco Springmann, a population health researcher at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, tells Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, however different studies draw various limits around what counts as the food sector.).

Attempting to create a healthier population while farming in a less damaging way needs cooperation across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

What parts of the food technique could make the biggest effect on climate change?

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms truly address the environment obstacle … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the perspective of what the land sector requires to do to achieve the UK nationwide targets? I do not understand. Its definitely an action in the ideal direction, but theres probably an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

Ensuring funding for farming payments until a minimum of 2029 at the present level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the transition to sustainable farming. The report likewise states that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this must be “ring-fenced” for schemes that motivate habitat restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland remediation. Producing a “rural land usage structure” that will encourage on the finest method that any given piece of land must be utilized– whether for nature, agriculture, bioenergy or something else. The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment design”, which aims 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), along with smaller centres to spur innovation to “produce a much better food system”. The funds would be focused on innovating fruit and veggie production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, amongst other areas. Lowering meat intake by 30% over the next years. The report stops brief of suggesting a tax on meat to attain this aim (as it advises for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Rather, it states, the government must intend for “nudging consumers into altering their routines”. Introducing obligatory reporting on a range of metrics for food business utilizing more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information program, which would allow companies and the government to evaluate their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The program would include both the land-use data and the obligatory reporting information explained above. Bringing these two types of data together, the report composes, will help “create a clear, accessible and developing picture of the impact our diet plan has on nature, climate and public health”.

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

Much of the suggestions made in the report relate in some way to environment modification or environmental sustainability. These suggestions include:.

What are the restrictions of the food method in attending to climate modification?

” 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 attend to appropriately the ecological concerns, plus the health issues, you truly need to resolve the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

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

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

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

” 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 suggestions in the report] to come to fulfillment by which time the world might have altered.”.

For instance, the recommendation towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a crucial area in need of research financing. However, Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is currently very well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

Gill likewise notes that the report, while extensive, does not fully consider the unexpected effects of its suggestions. A much higher proportion of fresh fruits and veggies is squandered than meat. So the suggestions to consume less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

” There are currently lots of meat substitutes 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 healthy and sustainable diet plan does not always require to consist of processed meat options would have been very important, however that was missed out on there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The suggestions “appear to be nearly sort of looking backwards rather than looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, informs Carbon Brief. She adds:.

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

How does the food strategy address the competing interests of agricultural land usage and land usage for carbon sequestration?

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out an accomplishment of balancings” in providing enough land to produce the needed food, however likewise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Establishing the strategy will include collecting information on agricultural performance, top priority nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated locations. It will also develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched previously this year– in order to determine the land finest fit for nature restoration..

The chart below programs that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity expense” (yellow bars) is included to the emissions of various food groups (teal bars), the carbon expense of lamb and goat meat really surpasses that of beef, due to the big quantities of land needed to graze those animals and their cravings for tree saplings.

” Globally, the most significant prospective carbon benefit of eating less meat would not really be the reduction in emissions, but the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a disaster”. The proposed framework utilizes the “3 compartment model”, which aims 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 development to “develop a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would allow organizations and the federal government to assess their progress on the goals laid out in the report. 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 teal bars suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance expense”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

Decreasing meat consumption would also help relieve 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 taking up the vast bulk of that land.

The report notes that with the right incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy could be equally advantageous towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

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

In order to resolve these competing interests, the report calls for a national land-use technique to finest allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

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Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of numerous foodstuff. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance expense”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

Sharelines from this story.

The government has committed to producing a reaction to the technique, consisting of propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

” The kind of land that might provide the greatest environmental benefits is frequently not really agriculturally efficient. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

Nature-based options, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant role in many nations and business net-zero targets, however many of these need the repurposing of farming land.

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

The chart listed below shows how all land in the UK is allocated (left) and just how much overseas land is used to produce food for the UK (ideal).

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

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