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

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

Last week, part two of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was published, offering a broad summary of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and usage of food– in England..

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

The first part of the technique, published in July 2020, provided suggestions for the government to resolve food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released 2nd part has actually the specified objective of offering a “detailed plan for transforming the food system”..

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

The scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the home nations “food systems are so securely linked as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “may in turn discover some useful ideas” in the strategy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. While the current food system is capable of feeding the “biggest worldwide population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high ecological expense. The report notes:.

Some have actually criticised the suggestion to tax wholesale sugar and salt as unjust or as disproportionately impacting lower-income families. Others say that the procedures laid out in the report do not go far adequate towards making the food system more sustainable.

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

Why is the food strategy important for tackling climate modification?

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

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

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage of the 2008 emissions in that sector. By 2018, emissions had decreased by 13%, however none of this modification was due to improvements in agriculture. General emissions decreased by 32% over that same time period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

” Theres rather a lot of siloed thinking about the food system. So, from the point of view of integrated national policymaking that provides, its fantastic.”.

Research study recommends that the food system is accountable for about one-third of global 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, informs Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, but various studies draw various borders around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

Trying to produce a healthier population while farming in a less damaging way needs collaboration throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

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

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

The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment model”, 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 development to “produce a much better food system”. Introducing necessary reporting on a variety of metrics for food business using more than 250 individuals. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data programme, which would enable services and the government to assess their progress on the objectives laid out in the report.

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

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms really address the climate difficulty … I think the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the perspective of what the land sector needs to do to achieve the UK national targets? I do not know. Its certainly a step in the right instructions, however theres probably an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

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

What are the limitations of the food technique in attending to climate modification?

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

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

” There are currently lots of meat substitutes on the market and much more so when you consider natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more plainly that sustainable and healthy diet doesnt necessarily require to consist of processed meat options would have been essential, but that was missed out on there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

For instance, the recommendation towards purchasing innovation lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in requirement of research financing. Springmann says, the alternative-protein market is already very 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 change in farming … And its going to take years [for the suggestions in the report] to come to fruition by which time the world might have changed.”.

The recommendations “seem to be almost sort of looking in reverse rather than looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, tells Carbon Brief. She adds:.

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

Gill likewise notes that the report, while comprehensive, does not completely consider the unexpected consequences of its recommendations. A much higher proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is wasted than meat. The recommendations to consume less meat might increase the amount of food waste.

The food system “is really complicated”, Gill states, “however I do not believe thats any excuse for not in fact highlighting some of those concerns right at the start”.

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

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

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major role in many countries and companies net-zero targets, however a lot of these require the repurposing of farming land.

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

Establishing the method will involve gathering information on farming performance, priority nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated locations. It will likewise build on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched earlier this year– in order to recognize the land finest matched for nature repair..

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a catastrophe”. The proposed framework utilizes the “3 compartment design”, which strives for a balance in 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 development to “develop a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information program, which would permit 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, shows how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. The teal bars show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity cost”, implying the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

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

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

Minimizing meat consumption would likewise help ease the stress 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.

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

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The federal government has actually dedicated to producing an action to the strategy, consisting of propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

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

Total carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kilogram of numerous foodstuff. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

UK acreage divided up by purpose. About 70% is devoted to agriculture, mainly livestock and animals feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, shows how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. About half of the overall land usage happens overseas. The combined acreage for rearing beef and lamb for UK consumption is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The report notes that with the best incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy might be equally helpful towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

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The chart below shows how all land in the UK is allocated (left) and how much abroad land is utilized to produce food for the UK (best).

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

As an outcome, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out a task of balancings” in providing sufficient land to produce the required food, but also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

” The kind of land that could provide the greatest ecological advantages is typically not really agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.