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

The first part of the method, published in July 2020, provided suggestions for the federal government to address food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published 2nd part has actually the specified goal of offering a “comprehensive strategy for transforming the food system”..

In this Q&A, Carbon Brief analyzes the report and describes how its suggestions line up– or do not line up– with the UKs climate targets and decarbonisation goals.

Recently, part two of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was released, offering a broad summary of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transport and intake of food– in England..

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

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

The federal government has committed to producing a white paper and propositions for future laws in response 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.

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house countries “food systems are so tightly linked as to remain in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “might in turn find some helpful concepts” in the strategy.

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

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

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. He describes:.

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

Its aim was to offer a roadmap for transforming the food system from its existing state to one that is healthier for the population and the world..

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

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

This report by @food_strategy has some fascinating and far reaching concepts that would suggest a huge modification for the much 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.

Why is the food technique important for dealing with environment modification?

” Without attending to the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to fulfill those environment change responsibilities [set out by law] and to add to mitigating climate change.”.

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are because of agriculture, including rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have triggered a 3rd of overall global warming considering that the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

Other significant factors to the emissions include transport, food and fertiliser manufacturing and product packaging..

Attempting to produce a much healthier population while farming in a less destructive way needs cooperation across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

Research study recommends that the food system is responsible for about one-third of international 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%, but different research studies draw different limits around what counts as the food sector.).

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

” Theres rather a great deal of siloed thinking of the food system. So, from the viewpoint of integrated national policymaking that delivers, its great.”.

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

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

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

What parts of the food method could make the greatest impact on climate change?

Guaranteeing financing for farming payments until at least 2029 at the existing level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the transition to sustainable farming. The report also stipulates that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this needs to be “ring-fenced” for schemes that encourage habitat restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland repair. Developing a “rural land use framework” that will advise on the very best way that any offered piece of land ought to be used– whether for nature, agriculture, something or bioenergy else. The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment model”, 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), in addition to smaller centres to stimulate innovation to “develop a better food system”. The funds would be focused on innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, among other areas. Reducing meat usage by 30% over the next decade. The report stops brief of advising a tax on meat to accomplish this aim (as it suggests for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Instead, it mentions, the federal government should go for “nudging consumers into altering their practices”. Presenting compulsory reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies utilizing more than 250 people. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information program, which would allow businesses and the government to examine their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The program would consist of both the land-use data and the necessary reporting data explained above. Bringing these two kinds of data together, the report writes, will assist “produce a clear, accessible and progressing image of the impact our diet plan has on nature, environment and public health”.

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

Davey calls the recommendations a “good starting point”. However, he includes:.

” The question is how quickly will those reforms really attend to the climate obstacle … I think 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 attain the UK national targets? I do not understand. Its certainly an action in the right instructions, but theres probably an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

What are the limitations of the food strategy in addressing environment modification?

The food system “is extremely complicated”, Gill states, “however I do not believe thats any reason for not actually highlighting a few of those issues right at the start”.

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

” There are currently a lot of meat replaces on the marketplace and a lot more so when you consider natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet plan does not necessarily need to consist of processed meat options would have been essential, but that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

” Another thing that seems to be missing is that foresighting, wheres the world going to from other sectors … Theres going to be a transformation in farming … And its going to take years [for the suggestions in the report] to come to fruition by which time the world may have altered.”.

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

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

Gill likewise keeps in mind that the report, while comprehensive, does not totally consider the unintentional effects of its suggestions. A much higher percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables is lost than meat. So the suggestions to consume less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

The suggestions “appear to be nearly sort of looking backwards instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, tells Carbon Brief. She includes:.

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

The suggestion towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a key location in need of research funding. Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is already extremely strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

How does the food method address the competing interests of agricultural land use and land use for carbon sequestration?

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

Sharelines from this story.

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

In order to deal with these completing interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use technique to best assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has approximated that just over 20% of farming 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:.

Decreasing meat usage would also assist alleviate the stress on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the huge bulk of that land.

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Overall carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kg of different foodstuff. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance cost”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The government has actually devoted to producing an action to the strategy, including propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

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

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

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

Establishing the method will involve collecting information on agricultural productivity, top priority nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted locations. It will also build on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched previously this year– in order to recognize the land finest fit for nature remediation..

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

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out a feat of balancings” in offering adequate land to produce the required food, but also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

” The kind of land that could provide the best environmental advantages 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%.”.

The report notes that with the ideal rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy might be equally advantageous towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment design”, which makes every effort for a balance 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 development to “create a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would permit companies and the government to examine their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, shows how much land is utilized overseas 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 expense”, suggesting the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

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 larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.