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

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

The first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, supplied suggestions for the federal government to resolve food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released 2nd part has the stated objective of offering a “comprehensive prepare for changing the food system”..

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

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

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

Davey includes that, in his view, “every country on the planet would benefit from doing something of this kind”.

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

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

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

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

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

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house countries “food systems are so firmly interwoven regarding remain in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn find some helpful concepts” in the strategy.

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

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

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

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

Why is the food technique crucial for tackling climate modification?

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 actually been minimal– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

Almost half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, including rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have caused a 3rd of total international warming because the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

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 also set a legally binding target to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Springmann states:.

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

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

” Theres quite a lot of siloed thinking of the food system. From the point of view of integrated nationwide policymaking that delivers, its fantastic.”.

Research recommends that the food system is accountable for about one-third of international greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with 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 research studies draw different boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

Other major contributors to the emissions consist of food, transportation and fertiliser production and product packaging..

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

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

What parts of the food method could make the greatest effect on climate change?

” The question is how quickly will those reforms really attend to the environment challenge … I think the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the perspective of what the land sector needs to do to attain the UK national targets? I do not know. Its definitely a step in the right direction, but theres most likely an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

Ensuring financing for agricultural payments until a minimum of 2029 at the current level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the shift to sustainable farming. The report likewise stipulates that at least ₤ 500m of this ought to be “ring-fenced” for plans that encourage habitat restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland restoration. Producing a “rural land usage framework” that will recommend on the very best way that any provided piece of land need to be utilized– whether for nature, bioenergy, something or agriculture else. The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment design”, which pursues 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 development to “create a better food system”. The funds would be targeted at innovating fruit and veggie production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few areas. Decreasing meat consumption by 30% over the next decade. The report stops short of recommending a tax on meat to accomplish this objective (as it advises for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Rather, it mentions, the government ought to go for “nudging consumers into changing their habits”. 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 nationwide food system information programme, which would allow services and the federal government to assess their development on the goals laid out in the report. The programme would consist of both the land-use data and the necessary reporting information explained above. Bringing these 2 types of information together, the report composes, will assist “produce a clear, accessible and developing image of the impact our diet plan has on nature, climate and public health”.

Much of the suggestions made in the report relate in some method to environment change or environmental sustainability. These suggestions consist of:.

Davey calls the suggestions a “great starting point”. Nevertheless, he adds:.

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

” Another thing that seems to be missing 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 food system “is extremely complicated”, Gill states, “but I do not think thats any reason for not actually highlighting some of those concerns right at the start”.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you really require to resolve all sort of issues. And if you want to deal with properly the ecological concerns, plus the health concerns, you truly need to attend to the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

The recommendations “seem to be nearly sort of looking in reverse instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen and chair of the Scottish Science Advisory Council, tells Carbon Brief. She includes:.

” There are currently lots of meat replaces on the market and a lot more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet plan does not always need to consist of processed meat options would have been necessary, but that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while comprehensive, does not completely think about the unintentional effects of its suggestions. For instance, a much greater proportion of fresh vegetables and fruits is wasted than meat. The recommendations to consume less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

For example, the recommendation towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as a key area in need of research financing. Nevertheless, Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is already extremely well-developed. He tells Carbon Brief:.

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

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

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

How does the food technique address the contending interests of farming land use and land usage for carbon sequestration?

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. The proposed structure utilizes the “three 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 sized centres to spur development to “develop a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information program, which would enable services and the government to examine their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, reveals how much land is utilized overseas 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 show the carbon “chance cost”, implying the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

Establishing the method will involve gathering information on agricultural productivity, concern nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted locations. It will likewise construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched earlier this year– in order to determine the land finest matched for nature restoration..

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

Sharelines from this story.

” Globally, the most significant potential carbon benefit of eating less meat would not actually be the reduction in emissions, however the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

Minimizing meat intake would likewise help ease the pressure on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the vast bulk of that land.

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of different food. The teal bars show the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance cost”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

” Implementation of any of those suggestions truly needs political will … The suggestions themselves could have been more progressive, however even the ones that are there dont seem to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

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

The chart listed 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 (best).

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

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

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant function in many nations and business net-zero targets, but a lot of these require the repurposing of agricultural land.

” The kind of land that could provide the biggest environmental advantages is typically not really agriculturally productive. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

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

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In order to deal with these completing interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use strategy to finest designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

The federal government has devoted to producing a reaction to the strategy, including propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

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

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