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

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

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

The first part of the technique, released in July 2020, supplied recommendations for the federal government to resolve food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly released second part has actually the specified goal of offering a “comprehensive plan for transforming the food system”..

Recently, part 2 of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was published, supplying a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– an all-encompassing term that covers the production, processing, transportation and consumption of food– in England..

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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.

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

” The global food system is the single greatest factor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, drought, freshwater pollution and the collapse of marine wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to climate modification, after the energy market.”.

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

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

Some have criticised the recommendation to tax wholesale sugar and salt as unreasonable or as disproportionately affecting lower-income families. Others state that the measures set out in the report do not go far adequate towards making the food system more sustainable.

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

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

This report by @food_strategy has some intriguing and far reaching concepts that would indicate a big change for the much 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.

Why is the food method important for tackling environment change?

Research suggests that the food system is accountable for about one-third of international greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about the same for the UK, Dr Marco Springmann, a population health researcher at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, tells Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, however different research studies draw various limits around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

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

Other major contributors to the emissions include transport, fertiliser and food production and packaging..

Attempting to produce a healthier population while farming in a less destructive method needs cooperation across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

The food system has actually seen substantially smaller sized decreases in sector-wide emissions since 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 reduced by only 13% over the same time..

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

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

” Without addressing the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to fulfill those environment modification commitments [laid out by law] and to contribute to mitigating climate modification.”.

What parts of the food strategy could make the most significant influence on environment change?

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms truly deal with the climate obstacle … 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 achieve the UK national targets? I dont understand. Its definitely an action in the right instructions, however theres probably an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

The proposed framework uses the “three compartment model”, 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 sized centres to spur innovation to “develop a much better food system”. Introducing obligatory 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 national food system data program, which would permit companies and the government to evaluate their development on the goals laid out in the report.

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

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

What are the restrictions of the food strategy in resolving climate modification?

The food system “is very complicated”, Gill says, “but I do not believe thats any reason for not actually highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while thorough, does not totally think about the unintended effects of its recommendations. A much higher proportion of fresh fruits and veggies is lost than meat. So the recommendations to consume less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

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

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

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

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

” There are already lots of meat substitutes on the marketplace 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 require to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been essential, but that was missed out on there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

For example, the suggestion towards buying innovation lists alternative proteins as a key area in requirement of research study funding. Springmann states, the alternative-protein industry is already very well-developed. He tells Carbon Brief:.

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

” 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 suggestions in the report] to come to fruition by which time the world might have altered.”.

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

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

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

” Globally, the biggest prospective 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 right-hand side of the chart, using the 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 intake is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Developing the method will include gathering information on agricultural performance, concern nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated areas. It will also build on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched previously this year– in order to determine the land finest matched for nature repair..

” Implementation of any of those recommendations really requires political will … The recommendations themselves could have been more progressive, however even the ones that are there dont seem to resonate very much with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

The government has actually devoted to producing a response to the method, consisting of proposals for brand-new legislation, within the next six months..

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

The chart below programs how all land in the UK is allocated (left) and just how much abroad land is used to produce food for the UK (right).

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a miracle”. The proposed structure uses the “three compartment design”, which makes every effort 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 development to “develop a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would permit organizations and the government to assess their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the same scale, shows how much land is utilized overseas 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 expense”, meaning the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

” The sort of land that might provide the biggest ecological advantages is typically not really 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%.”.

However, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has currently shown 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:.

Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of different foodstuff. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance cost”, meaning the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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Decreasing meat intake would also assist minimize the stress on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the large bulk of that land.

In order to attend to these competing interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use strategy to finest allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

The chart listed below shows that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity expense” (yellow bars) is added 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 amounts of land needed to graze those animals and their appetite for tree saplings.

Nature-based services, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are expected to play a significant function in lots of nations and business net-zero targets, however a number of these need the repurposing of agricultural land.