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

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

The NFS is the culmination of more than 2 years worth of conferences 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 6 months, although the early response from UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually been “noncommittal” to many of the NFS propositions, according to the Guardian.

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

Recently, part two of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was published, providing a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– an all-encompassing term that covers the production, processing, transportation and intake of food– in England..

The first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, provided recommendations for the government to deal with food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published 2nd part has the specified objective of offering a “detailed strategy for transforming the food system”..

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

Its objective 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..

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

The NFS has actually definitely brought these problems to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the international engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief.

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

The scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the house countries “food systems are so firmly interwoven as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn discover some helpful ideas” in the technique.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. While the present food system can feeding the “most significant worldwide population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high environmental expense. The report notes:.

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

Why is the food strategy important for dealing with climate change?

Attempting to produce a much healthier population while farming in a less damaging method requires partnership across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

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

Research suggests that the food system is responsible for about one-third of worldwide 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 various studies draw various borders around what counts as the food sector.).

The food system has actually seen considerably smaller 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 considering that 2008, however food-related emissions have reduced by only 13% over the very same time..

Furthermore, essentially all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been because of cleaner energy and increased performance in the energy sector. Modifications due to farming have been negligible– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, including rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have caused a 3rd of overall global warming because the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a portion of the 2008 emissions in that sector. By 2018, emissions had decreased by 13%, but none of this change was because of improvements in farming. General emissions reduced by 32% over that exact same period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

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

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

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

Ensuring financing for agricultural payments till at least 2029 at the existing level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the transition to sustainable farming. The report also stipulates that at least ₤ 500m of this ought to be “ring-fenced” for plans that motivate environment restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland remediation. Developing a “rural land usage structure” that will recommend on the best way that any given piece of land should be utilized– whether for nature, bioenergy, farming or something else. The proposed framework utilizes the “three 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), as well as smaller centres to stimulate innovation to “produce a much better food system”. The funds would be focused on innovating fruit and vegetable production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, among other areas. Lowering meat intake by 30% over the next decade. The report stops brief of suggesting a tax on meat to achieve this aim (as it suggests for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Rather, it specifies, the federal government should go for “nudging consumers into altering their routines”. Presenting mandatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food business employing more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would enable organizations and the federal government to examine their development on the goals laid out in the report. The program would include both the land-use data and the necessary reporting data explained above. Bringing these 2 types of data together, the report writes, will assist “develop a clear, available and evolving image of the impact our diet plan has on nature, climate and public health”.

A lot of the recommendations made in the report relate in some way to climate change or environmental sustainability. These suggestions consist of:.

Davey calls the recommendations a “good starting point”. However, he adds:.

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms truly address the environment challenge … I believe 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 understand. Its certainly an action in the ideal instructions, however theres most likely an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

What are the limitations of the food method in resolving climate modification?

The food system “is extremely intricate”, Gill says, “however I dont think thats any excuse for not in fact highlighting a few of those concerns right at the start”.

The suggestions “appear to be practically 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 really require to deal with all kinds of concerns. And if you wish to resolve effectively the environmental issues, plus the health concerns, you actually have to deal with the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while extensive, does not completely consider the unintentional consequences of its suggestions. A much higher percentage of fresh fruits and veggies is squandered than meat. So the suggestions to consume less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

The report also “actually shied” far from taking a strong position on decreasing meat intake, 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.

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

” There are currently a lot of meat substitutes on the market and even more so when you consider natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet plan does not necessarily need to include processed meat options 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 key area in need of research study financing. Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is currently very strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

” Another thing that appears to be missing out on 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 may have changed.”.

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

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Establishing the strategy will involve collecting data on agricultural efficiency, concern nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted locations. It will also build on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched previously this year– in order to identify the land best suited for nature restoration..

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

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out a task of acrobatics” in offering sufficient land to produce the needed food, but also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

The report notes that with the right rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the method could be mutually beneficial towards farmers and the environment. It specifies:.

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

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

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

” Implementation of any of those suggestions actually requires political will … The recommendations 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.”.

In order to resolve these competing interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use method to best allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

Overall carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kilogram of various food. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity expense”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a disaster”. The proposed framework uses 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 sized centres to stimulate innovation to “produce a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data programme, which would allow businesses and the government to examine 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 reveal the carbon “opportunity expense”, suggesting the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

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

Nature-based options, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are expected to play a major function in many nations and companies net-zero targets, however a lot of these need the repurposing of farming land.

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

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

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

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

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