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

Recently, sequel of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was released, offering a broad summary of the state of the “food system”– an all-encompassing term that covers the production, processing, transportation and intake of food– in England..

In this Q&A, Carbon Brief describes and examines the report how its suggestions line up– or do not align– with the UKs environment 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 financial rewards, reporting and trade requirements and targets for long-lasting change in the food system..

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

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

The very first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, supplied suggestions for the federal government to deal with food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released 2nd part has the stated goal of supplying a “thorough prepare for changing the food system”..

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

” [The report] brings everyone around the table for a dialogue about what kind of system do we have, what type of system do we want to bring, what are the trade-offs and might governments do things differently.”.

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

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 “may in turn find some useful concepts” in the method.

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

The NFS was commissioned by the UK federal government in 2019 as the first independent evaluation of the governments food policy in almost 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 laid out in the report do not go far enough towards making the food system more sustainable.

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

” The international food system is the single most significant factor to biodiversity loss, logging, drought, freshwater contamination and the collapse of marine wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to climate change, after the energy market.”.

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

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

Why is the food method important for tackling environment modification?

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

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

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

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

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

Trying to develop a healthier population while farming in a less destructive method requires partnership across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are because of agriculture, consisting of rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have triggered a third of overall global warming given that the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage of the 2008 emissions because sector. By 2018, emissions had minimized by 13%, however none of this change was due to improvements in farming. Total emissions reduced by 32% over that same period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Moreover, virtually all of the gains made in the food sector have been because of cleaner energy and increased effectiveness in the energy sector. Modifications due to farming have actually been minimal– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

Research recommends 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%, however different research studies draw various borders around what counts as the food sector.).

What parts of the food method could make the greatest effect on climate modification?

Guaranteeing financing for agricultural payments until a minimum of 2029 at the existing level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to aid in the shift to sustainable farming. The report likewise specifies that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this should be “ring-fenced” for schemes that motivate environment repair and carbon sequestration, such as peatland restoration. Developing a “rural land use structure” that will advise on the finest method that any provided piece of land ought to be utilized– whether for nature, something, bioenergy or farming else. The proposed structure utilizes the “3 compartment model”, which pursues 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), as well as smaller sized centres to stimulate innovation to “produce a much better food system”. The funds would be focused on innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few areas. Reducing meat consumption by 30% over the next decade. The report stops brief of advising a tax on meat to accomplish this objective (as it recommends for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Instead, it specifies, the federal government should go for “nudging consumers into altering their practices”. Introducing compulsory reporting on a range of metrics for food companies employing more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information programme, which would enable organizations and the government to assess their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The programme would include both the land-use information and the obligatory reporting data described above. Bringing these two kinds of information together, the report composes, will help “develop a clear, available and developing image of the effect our diet plan has on nature, environment and public health”.

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms actually address the climate challenge … I think the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the viewpoint of what the land sector requires to do to attain the UK national targets? I do not know. Its certainly a step in the ideal instructions, but theres probably an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

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

Much of the recommendations made in the report relate in some method to climate modification or ecological sustainability. These suggestions consist of:.

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

For example, the recommendation towards buying development lists alternative proteins as a crucial area in need of research financing. However, Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is already extremely well-developed. He tells Carbon Brief:.

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

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you really require to attend to all kinds of concerns. And if you wish to deal with effectively the environmental concerns, plus the health concerns, you truly have to attend to the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

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

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

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

” There are already lots of meat replaces on the market and much more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet plan doesnt always require to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been very important, however that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

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

Gill likewise keeps in mind that the report, while extensive, does not fully think about the unintentional effects of its recommendations. For example, a much greater percentage of fresh fruits and veggies is lost than meat. The recommendations to consume less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

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

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

” Implementation of any of those recommendations really requires political will … The recommendations themselves might 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.”.

UK land location divided up by purpose. About 70% is dedicated to agriculture, mainly livestock and animals feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the same scale, demonstrates how much land is utilized abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the overall land use takes place overseas. The combined land area for raising beef and lamb for UK usage is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

” Globally, the biggest possible carbon advantage of consuming less meat would not really be the decrease in emissions, but the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

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” The sort of land that might provide the biggest environmental benefits is often not very agriculturally productive. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

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

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The government has devoted to producing a reaction to the method, consisting of proposals for new legislation, within the next 6 months..

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

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

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out a feat of acrobatics” in offering sufficient land to produce the needed food, however also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Total carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kilogram of numerous food. The teal bars show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity expense”, implying the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The chart below shows that when the carbon sequestration “chance cost” (yellow bars) is contributed to the emissions of various food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat really surpasses that of beef, due to the large quantities of land required to graze those animals and their appetite for tree saplings.

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 (right).

Nevertheless, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has 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, alerts Springmann:.

Reducing meat intake would also assist reduce the strain on land resources, the report discovers. 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.

Developing the method will include collecting data on agricultural productivity, concern nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted areas. 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 restoration..

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment design”, 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 sized centres to stimulate development to “produce a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would enable businesses and the federal government to evaluate their development on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, shows 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 “chance expense”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.