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

Recently, sequel of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was released, providing a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– an all-encompassing term that covers the production, processing, transport and consumption of food– in England..

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

In this Q&A, Carbon Brief takes a look at the report and describes how its recommendations align– or do not line up– with the UKs climate targets and decarbonisation goals.

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

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

The first part of the method, released in July 2020, provided suggestions for the federal government to attend to food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published second part has actually the mentioned objective of supplying a “comprehensive prepare for changing the food system”..

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

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

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 set out in the report do not go far adequate towards making the food system more sustainable.

Davey adds that, in his view, “every country in the world would gain from doing something of this kind”.

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

The scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the home nations “food systems are so firmly interwoven as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn find some helpful ideas” in the method.

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

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

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.

Why is the food technique essential for taking on climate change?

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

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage 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 destructive way needs cooperation across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

Research suggests that the food system is responsible 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%, but various studies draw various borders around what counts as the food sector.).

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to farming, including rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have actually caused a third of overall global warming given that the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

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 minimal– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

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

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

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

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

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

The proposed structure utilizes the “3 compartment design”, which aims for a balance in 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 centres to spur development to “create a better food system”. Introducing mandatory reporting on a range of metrics for food business utilizing more than 250 people. 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 progress on the goals laid out in the report.

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms actually attend to the environment difficulty … I think the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the perspective of what the land sector requires to do to accomplish the UK national targets? I do not understand. Its certainly an action in the ideal instructions, but theres probably an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

A number of the recommendations made in the report relate in some method to environment modification or ecological sustainability. These recommendations consist of:.

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

What are the restrictions of the food method in attending to environment change?

The food system “is very intricate”, Gill states, “however I dont think thats any excuse for not really highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

Gill also notes that the report, while comprehensive, does not fully think about the unintentional consequences of its recommendations. A much greater percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables is lost than meat. So the recommendations to eat less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

” There are currently plenty of meat substitutes on the market and a lot more so when you consider natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet plan does not always require to include processed meat alternatives would have been essential, however that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

The recommendation towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a key area in need of research study financing. Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is already really strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

” 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 transformation in farming … And its going to take years [for the suggestions in the report] to come to fulfillment by which time the world may have changed.”.

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

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

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

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly require to resolve all sort of issues. And if you desire to resolve appropriately the environmental issues, plus the health issues, you really have to resolve the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

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

Decreasing meat usage would likewise assist relieve the strain on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the huge bulk of that land.

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

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

The chart below shows that when the carbon sequestration “chance expense” (yellow bars) is contributed to the emissions of numerous food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat actually exceeds that of beef, due to the big amounts of land needed to graze those animals and their hunger for tree saplings.

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

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

Sharelines from this story.

The right-hand side of the chart, using the very same scale, shows how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. The combined land location for raising beef and lamb for UK consumption is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Developing the method will include collecting information on agricultural productivity, top priority nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted areas. It will also construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– released previously this year– in order to recognize the land finest suited for nature restoration..

In order to deal with these competing interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use technique to best allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

As a result, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out a feat of balancings” in offering sufficient land to produce the required food, but likewise to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

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

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

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

” The sort of land that might deliver the best environmental advantages is frequently 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%.”.

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of various foodstuff. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance expense”, implying the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

However, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually currently indicated his hesitancy to support a few of the policy suggestions set out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, alerts Springmann:.

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. The proposed structure uses the “three compartment design”, which strives 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), as well as smaller sized centres to stimulate innovation to “develop a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information program, which would enable services and the government to evaluate their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, reveals 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”, implying the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.