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

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

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

The federal government has actually 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 been “noncommittal” to much of the NFS proposals, according to the Guardian.

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

The very first part of the technique, published in July 2020, offered recommendations for the federal government to address food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly released 2nd part has the stated objective of offering a “comprehensive plan for changing the food system”..

Last week, part 2 of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was released, supplying a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and usage of food– in England..

What is the National Food Strategy?

Its objective was to offer a roadmap for changing the food system from its present state to one that is healthier for the population and the planet..

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

However, the NFS has actually definitely brought these problems to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the worldwide engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief. He explains:.

This report by @food_strategy has some fascinating and far reaching ideas that would mean a huge modification for the better in our food system and make all of us 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.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. While the existing food system can feeding the “biggest worldwide population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high ecological cost. The report notes:.

” [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 adds that, in his view, “every nation on the planet would benefit from doing something of this kind”.

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

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

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

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the house nations “food systems are so firmly interwoven as to remain in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “might in turn find some useful ideas” in the technique.

Why is the food strategy essential for dealing with environment modification?

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

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

Additionally, virtually all of the gains made in the food sector have been because of cleaner energy and increased efficiency in the energy sector. Changes due to farming have been negligible– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

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

” Without resolving the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to fulfill those environment modification responsibilities [set out by law] and to contribute to mitigating environment modification.”.

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are due to farming, consisting of rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have caused a third of total international warming given that the industrial transformation”, the report notes.

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

Attempting to produce a much healthier population while farming in a less damaging method needs cooperation throughout disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He says:.

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

Research suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of international greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about the exact 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 various boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

What parts of the food strategy could make the biggest effect on climate modification?

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms truly attend to the environment difficulty … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the viewpoint of what the land sector needs to do to accomplish the UK national targets? I dont know. Its definitely an action in the best instructions, however theres most likely an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

The proposed framework uses the “three 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 sized centres to stimulate innovation to “produce a much better food system”. Presenting obligatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies using more than 250 people. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would enable organizations and the government to assess their development on the goals laid out in the report.

Davey calls the recommendations a “excellent starting point”. Nevertheless, he adds:.

Numerous of the suggestions made in the report relate in some way to climate change or environmental sustainability. These recommendations consist of:.

What are the constraints of the food strategy in resolving climate modification?

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

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

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

The suggestions “appear to be almost sort of looking in reverse instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, tells Carbon Brief. She adds:.

For instance, the suggestion towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a key location in need of research study funding. Springmann says, the alternative-protein market is already really strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

” There are already a lot of meat substitutes on the market and a lot more so when you consider natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more plainly that healthy and sustainable diet doesnt always need to consist of processed meat options would have been essential, however that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

” Another thing that appears to be missing out on 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 recommendations in the report] to come to fruition by which time the world may have changed.”.

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while thorough, does not fully think about the unintended effects of its suggestions. A much greater percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables is lost than meat. The recommendations to consume less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

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

The food system “is very intricate”, Gill says, “however 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 competing interests of farming land usage and land use for carbon sequestration?

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment design”, which strives for a balance in 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 centres to spur development to “develop a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would permit businesses and the 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, reveals how much land is utilized 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 show the carbon “opportunity expense”, implying the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

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

Reducing meat usage would likewise help ease the strain on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the large bulk of that land.

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

UK acreage divided up by function. About 70% is devoted to agriculture, generally animals and animals feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, reveals how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land use takes place overseas. 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 below shows 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 actually exceeds that of beef, due to the big quantities of land needed to graze those animals and their cravings for tree saplings.

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

In order to resolve these contending interests, the report requires a national land-use strategy to best assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

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, however likewise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Receive our complimentary Daily Briefing for a digest of the past 24 hours of climate and energy media coverage, or our Weekly Briefing for a round-up of our material from the previous seven days. Just enter your email below:.

Establishing the technique will involve gathering data on farming efficiency, priority nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated areas. It will also construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– released earlier this year– in order to determine the land best suited for nature repair..

Sharelines from this story.

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

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant function in many countries and business net-zero targets, but much of these need the repurposing of farming land.

” Globally, the most significant potential carbon benefit of consuming less meat would not in fact be the decrease in emissions, however the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

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

Total carbon costs (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 show the carbon “chance expense”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The report notes that with the right incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique could be mutually helpful towards farmers and the environment. It specifies:.