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

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, sets out 14 recommendations for the UK government to consider, consisting of financial incentives, reporting and trade standards and targets for long-term modification in the food system..

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

Recently, sequel of Englands National Food Strategy (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 discusses and analyzes the report how its suggestions align– or do not line up– with the UKs climate targets and decarbonisation goals.

The very first part of the technique, released in July 2020, provided recommendations for the federal government to deal with food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly published 2nd part has the mentioned goal of offering a “detailed strategy for transforming the food system”..

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

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

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

This report by @food_strategy has some interesting and far reaching ideas that would imply a big modification for the much better in our food system and make us all 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 NFS was commissioned by the UK federal government in 2019 as the very first independent evaluation of the governments food policy in almost three-quarters of a century.

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

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

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

” The international food system is the single most significant factor to biodiversity loss, logging, drought, freshwater pollution and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to climate modification, after the energy industry.”.

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

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

Trying to develop a healthier population while farming in a less destructive way needs collaboration across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

Moreover, practically all of the gains made in the food sector have been due to cleaner energy and increased efficiency in the energy sector. Modifications due to agriculture have been negligible– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

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 study suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the very 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 studies draw different borders around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

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

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, including rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have caused a third of total global warming because the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

” Theres quite a lot of siloed thinking about the food system. From the point of view of integrated national policymaking that provides, its wonderful.”.

What parts of the food technique could make the most significant effect on environment modification?

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

The proposed framework uses the “3 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 centres to stimulate development to “produce a much better food system”. Presenting compulsory reporting on a range of metrics for food companies employing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would enable businesses and the federal government to assess their progress on the objectives laid out in the report.

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms actually deal with the environment obstacle … I think the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the viewpoint of what the land sector needs to do to achieve the UK nationwide targets? I do not understand. Its certainly an action in the right direction, but theres most likely an argument that its not ambitious enough.”.

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

What are the limitations of the food technique in addressing climate change?

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

The commissioning of the report– it was led by business person and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– implies the report itself “reveals a bit of a skewed focus” towards business-focused options, Springmann says.

The recommendations “appear to be nearly sort of looking in reverse 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 comprehensive, does not completely consider the unintentional consequences of its recommendations. For example, a much higher percentage of fresh fruits and veggies is squandered than meat. So the suggestions to eat less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

The food system “is extremely complicated”, Gill says, “however I do not believe thats any excuse for not really highlighting a few of those concerns right at the start”.

For example, the recommendation towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as a key location in requirement of research study funding. However, Springmann says, the alternative-protein market is already extremely strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

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

” Another thing that seems 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 fruition by which time the world might have altered.”.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you actually need to address all type of issues. And if you desire to attend to correctly the environmental issues, plus the health issues, you truly need 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?

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Developing the method will involve collecting data on farming productivity, priority nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated areas. It will also develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched previously this year– in order to recognize the land best suited for nature repair..

As a result, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out a task of acrobatics” in supplying sufficient land to produce the essential food, but likewise to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

” Implementation of any of those suggestions truly needs political will … The recommendations themselves might have been more progressive, but even the ones that exist do not appear to resonate extremely much with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a catastrophe”. The proposed structure utilizes 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 centres to stimulate innovation to “create a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would enable businesses and the federal government to examine their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the same scale, reveals how much land is utilized abroad to produce food for the UK. The teal bars show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, 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.

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

” The kind of land that might provide the greatest ecological benefits is frequently 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%.”.

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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 cravings for tree saplings.

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

Nevertheless, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has already suggested his hesitancy to support a few of the policy suggestions laid out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, alerts Springmann:.

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

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

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

UK acreage divided up by function. About 70% is committed to farming, generally animals and animals feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very same scale, demonstrates how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land use happens overseas. The combined land location for rearing beef and lamb for UK usage is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The chart listed below demonstrate how all land in the UK is designated (left) and just how much overseas land is utilized to produce food for the UK (best).

Minimizing meat intake would likewise help minimize the pressure 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 vast bulk of that land.

Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of numerous foodstuff. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity cost”, 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 federal government has dedicated to producing an action to the strategy, including propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..