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

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

The NFS is the culmination of more than 2 years worth of conferences and discussions with market leaders, academics, policymakers and the general public.

The first part of the method, 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 2nd part has actually the specified goal of offering a “thorough plan for transforming the food system”..

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

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

The federal government has committed to producing a white paper and propositions for future laws in action within the next 6 months, although the early response from UK prime minister Boris Johnson has been “noncommittal” to a lot of the NFS proposals, according to the Guardian.

What is the National Food Strategy?

” The worldwide food system is the single most significant contributor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, dry spell, freshwater contamination and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to climate change, after the energy market.”.

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

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

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

This report by @food_strategy has some interesting and far reaching concepts that would indicate a big modification for the better in our food system and make us all 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 disaster and a wonder”. While the present food system can feeding the “greatest global population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high environmental expense. The report notes:.

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

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

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

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

Why is the food technique crucial for tackling environment modification?

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed believing about the food system. From the point of view of integrated national policymaking that provides, its great.”.

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

Attempting to produce a much healthier population while farming in a less damaging way requires collaboration throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

Research study recommends that the food system is accountable for about one-third of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the exact same for the UK, Dr Marco Springmann, a population health researcher 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 borders around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

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

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are due to farming, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have actually triggered a 3rd of total global warming considering that the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

The food system has seen substantially smaller reductions in sector-wide emissions since 2008 as compared to the economy as a whole: economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions have reduced by nearly one-third because 2008, but food-related emissions have actually decreased 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 performance in the energy sector. Modifications due to agriculture have actually been minimal– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

What parts of the food technique could make the greatest influence on environment change?

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

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms truly address the environment difficulty … 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 nationwide targets?

Guaranteeing financing for agricultural payments up until a minimum of 2029 at the current level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to assist in the transition to sustainable farming. The report likewise stipulates that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this should be “ring-fenced” for schemes that motivate habitat remediation and carbon sequestration, such as peatland remediation. Producing a “rural land usage structure” that will recommend on the finest manner in which any given piece of land must be utilized– whether for nature, bioenergy, something or agriculture else. The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment design”, which pursues 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), along with smaller sized centres to spur development to “create a better food system”. The funds would be targeted at innovating fruit and vegetable production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, amongst other locations. Decreasing meat intake by 30% over the next years. The report stops brief of advising a tax on meat to attain this aim (as it recommends for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Instead, it specifies, the government must intend for “nudging consumers into altering their routines”. Introducing compulsory reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies employing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information program, which would enable businesses and the federal government to evaluate their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The program would consist of both the land-use information and the mandatory reporting information explained above. Bringing these two types of information together, the report composes, will assist “create a clear, available and evolving photo 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 modification or environmental sustainability. These recommendations include:.

What are the restrictions of the food method in addressing environment change?

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.

” There are currently a lot of meat substitutes on the market and even more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet doesnt necessarily require to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been essential, but that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

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

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

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly need to attend to all type of issues. And if you wish to deal with correctly the environmental issues, plus the health concerns, you truly need to attend to the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

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

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

Gill also notes that the report, while thorough, does not totally think about the unintentional effects of its recommendations. For example, a much higher percentage of fresh vegetables and fruits is wasted than meat. So the recommendations to consume less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

The food system “is really complicated”, Gill says, “but I do not think thats any excuse for not actually highlighting some of those concerns right at the start”.

How does the food technique address the completing interests of agricultural land use and land use for carbon sequestration?

Decreasing meat intake would likewise help minimize the strain on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the huge bulk of that land.

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

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a miracle”. The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment model”, which strives 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 innovation to “create a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data program, which would permit companies and the federal government to assess their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, shows how much land is used 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 reveal the carbon “chance cost”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

The government has actually committed to producing a reaction to the technique, including propositions for new legislation, within the next six months..

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

The chart listed below shows that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity expense” (yellow bars) is contributed to the emissions of various food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat in fact exceeds that of beef, due to the big quantities of land needed to graze those animals and their appetite for tree saplings.

However, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has already suggested his hesitancy to support some of the policy recommendations set out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, cautions Springmann:.

The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, reveals 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.

Nature-based options, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major function in lots of nations and business net-zero targets, however a number of these require the repurposing of farming land.

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Establishing the technique will include gathering information on agricultural efficiency, concern nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated locations. It will also construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched earlier this year– in order to determine the land best matched for nature restoration..

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” The type of land that might deliver the best ecological advantages is often not really agriculturally productive. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

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

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

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

Total carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kg of different foodstuff. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance expense”, meaning 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 listed below demonstrate how all land in the UK is allocated (left) and just how much overseas land is used to produce food for the UK (right).