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

The first part of the strategy, released in July 2020, offered recommendations for the government to attend to food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published 2nd part has actually the specified goal of providing a “detailed prepare for changing the food system”..

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

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

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 objectives.

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the house countries “food systems are so securely interwoven as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “might in turn discover some useful concepts” in the method.

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

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.

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

Why is the food strategy crucial for taking on climate modification?

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

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

Attempting to create a healthier population while farming in a less harmful method requires collaboration across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

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

” Theres rather a great deal of siloed thinking of the food system. So, from the point of view of integrated nationwide policymaking that provides, its fantastic.”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ensuring financing for agricultural payments till at least 2029 at the present level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to assist in the shift to sustainable farming. The report also stipulates that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this should be “ring-fenced” for plans that encourage habitat restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland restoration. Developing a “rural land usage structure” that will recommend on the very best manner in which any offered piece of land should be used– whether for nature, agriculture, bioenergy or something else. 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 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 “develop a better food system”. The funds would be focused on innovating fruit and vegetable production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few locations. Lowering meat consumption by 30% over the next decade. The report stops brief of recommending a tax on meat to attain this objective (as it advises for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Instead, it specifies, the government needs to intend for “nudging consumers into changing their practices”. Introducing compulsory reporting on a variety of metrics for food business utilizing more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would allow services and the government to assess their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The program would consist of both the land-use information and the obligatory reporting data described above. Bringing these two kinds of data together, the report writes, will help “produce a clear, available and progressing image of the impact our diet plan has on nature, environment and public health”.

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms actually deal with the climate challenge … I think the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector requires to do to attain the UK nationwide targets?

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

Numerous of the recommendations made in the report relate in some method to environment change or environmental sustainability. These recommendations include:.

What are the constraints of the food strategy in attending to environment change?

The food system “is extremely complicated”, Gill says, “however I do not think thats any reason for not in fact highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

” There are currently plenty of meat replaces on the market and even more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet does not necessarily require to include processed meat options would have been very important, however that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

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

Gill likewise keeps in mind that the report, while extensive, does not totally consider the unintended consequences of its recommendations. A much higher proportion of fresh fruits and veggies is squandered than meat. The suggestions to consume less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

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

The recommendation towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as a key area in need of research study funding. However, Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is already really strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you really need to attend to all sort of problems. And if you want to address properly the environmental issues, plus the health issues, you actually have to address the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

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

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

How does the food technique address the competing interests of farming land use and land use for carbon sequestration?

UK acreage divided up by function. About 70% is devoted to agriculture, mainly livestock and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, reveals how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land usage happens overseas. 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.

Overall carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kilogram of different food items. The teal bars indicate 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. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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 surpasses that of beef, due to the large amounts of land needed to graze those animals and their appetite for tree saplings.

In order to resolve these completing interests, the report requires a national land-use method to finest designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

Sharelines from this story.

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

Developing the method will involve collecting data on agricultural efficiency, concern nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted locations. It will likewise develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched earlier this year– in order to identify the land best fit for nature repair..

Reducing meat intake would likewise help ease the stress 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 using up the vast bulk of that land.

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

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

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

The report keeps in mind that with the right rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the method might be equally helpful towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. 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 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 “produce a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would permit businesses and the government to evaluate their development on the objectives laid out in the report. 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 teal bars indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, meaning the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

The government has dedicated to producing a response to the technique, including propositions for new legislation, within the next six months..

Nature-based options, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are expected to play a significant function in lots of countries and companies net-zero targets, however a lot of these need the repurposing of agricultural land.

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out an accomplishment of acrobatics” in supplying sufficient land to produce the necessary food, but likewise to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

” The type of land that might provide the best ecological advantages is typically not extremely agriculturally productive. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

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