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

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

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

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

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

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

The very first part of the technique, published in July 2020, offered recommendations for the government to resolve food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly published 2nd part has the specified goal of offering a “detailed plan for transforming the food system”..

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the house countries “food systems are so tightly linked regarding remain in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “might in turn find some helpful concepts” in the technique.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a miracle”. While the present food system can feeding the “biggest worldwide population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high ecological cost. The report notes:.

Nevertheless, the NFS has definitely brought these concerns to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the worldwide engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief. He discusses:.

” [The report] brings everybody around the table for a dialogue about what kind of system do we have, what type of system do we want to bring, what are the compromises and might federal governments do things in a different way.”.

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

This report by @food_strategy has some intriguing and far reaching ideas that would indicate a big change for the better in our food system and make us all 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 global food system is the single most significant contributor to biodiversity loss, logging, drought, freshwater contamination and the collapse of aquatic wildlife. It is the second-biggest factor to environment change, after the energy market.”.

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

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

Why is the food technique crucial for taking on environment modification?

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

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

Research suggests that the food system is accountable 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, informs Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, but various research studies draw different boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

Other significant factors to the emissions consist of fertiliser, transport and food production and packaging..

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

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

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

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 triggered a 3rd of overall worldwide warming since the commercial transformation”, the report notes.

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

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

What parts of the food technique could make the greatest effect on climate modification?

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

Ensuring financing for agricultural payments up until a minimum of 2029 at the current 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 repair and carbon sequestration, such as peatland repair. Producing a “rural land use structure” that will recommend on the best manner in which any given piece of land need to be used– whether for nature, something, farming or bioenergy else. The proposed framework 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 centres to stimulate development to “produce a better food system”. The funds would be intended at innovating vegetables and fruit production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, among other areas. Minimizing meat usage by 30% over the next years. The report stops brief of recommending a tax on meat to achieve this goal (as it recommends for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Rather, it mentions, the government should intend for “nudging customers into changing their practices”. Introducing mandatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food companies utilizing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would allow companies and the government to assess their development on the goals set out in the report. The program would include both the land-use data and the necessary reporting data described above. Bringing these two types of data together, the report writes, will help “produce a clear, available and developing image of the impact our diet plan has on nature, climate and public health”.

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms truly resolve the climate challenge … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector requires to do to attain the UK national targets?

A number of the recommendations made in the report relate in some way to climate modification or environmental sustainability. These recommendations consist of:.

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

The suggestions “seem to be nearly sort of looking backwards instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, tells Carbon Brief. She adds:.

Limousin beef cattle 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 really need to address all sort of concerns. And if you wish to deal with correctly the environmental issues, plus the health issues, you really have to attend to the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

” 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 fulfillment by which time the world might have changed.”.

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

” There are already a lot of meat substitutes on the marketplace and a lot more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more plainly that healthy and sustainable diet doesnt necessarily require to include processed meat alternatives would have been very important, however that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The food system “is really intricate”, Gill states, “but I dont think thats any reason for not in fact highlighting a few of those concerns right at the start”.

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while comprehensive, does not completely think about the unintended effects of its recommendations. A much greater proportion of fresh fruits and veggies is lost than meat. So the recommendations to consume less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

For example, the recommendation towards buying innovation lists alternative proteins as an essential area in requirement of research financing. Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is currently extremely well-developed. He tells Carbon Brief:.

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

How does the food technique address the competing interests of agricultural land usage and land usage for carbon sequestration?

The chart listed below shows that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity cost” (yellow bars) is included to the emissions of numerous food groups (teal bars), the carbon expense of lamb and goat meat actually surpasses that of beef, due to the large quantities of land required to graze those animals and their appetite for tree saplings.

” The kind of land that might deliver the best ecological advantages is frequently 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% just produces 15%.”.

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

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

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually estimated that just 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:.

As a result, the report states, the food system is being “asked to carry out a feat of balancings” in offering enough land to produce the needed food, however likewise to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

The report notes that with the ideal incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy could be equally advantageous towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

Sharelines from this story.

The chart below programs how all land in the UK is designated (left) and just how much overseas land is used to produce food for the UK (ideal).

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of different foodstuff. The teal bars show the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance expense”, implying the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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Developing the strategy will include gathering information on agricultural efficiency, concern nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted areas. It will also develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– released earlier this year– in order to recognize the land finest matched for nature remediation..

The federal government has actually committed to producing a reaction to the strategy, consisting of proposals for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

Nature-based options, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major function in numerous nations and companies net-zero targets, but much of these require the repurposing of farming land.

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

Minimizing meat consumption would also assist ease the stress on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the large majority of that land.

In order to resolve these contending interests, the report requires a national land-use strategy to finest assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a catastrophe”. The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment design”, which strives 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 sized centres to spur innovation to “create a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would allow companies 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 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 show the carbon “opportunity expense”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

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

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