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

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

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, lays out 14 suggestions for the UK government to think about, consisting of monetary rewards, reporting and trade requirements and targets for long-term change in the food system..

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

Last week, sequel of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was released, supplying a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– an all-inclusive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and usage of food– in England..

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

The very first part of the strategy, released in July 2020, provided suggestions for the government to address food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published second part has actually the mentioned objective of providing a “detailed prepare for changing the food system”..

What is the National Food Strategy?

This report by @food_strategy has some intriguing and far reaching ideas that would imply a huge modification for the better in our food system and make all of us 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 response to recentlys release saw members of parliament, celeb chefs and even rockstars weighing in on its significance.

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 report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. While the existing food system is capable of feeding the “most significant international population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high ecological cost. The report notes:.

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

The scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house countries “food systems are so securely interwoven as to be in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “might in turn discover some helpful concepts” in the strategy.

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

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

” The worldwide food system is the single greatest contributor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, dry spell, freshwater pollution and the collapse of marine wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to climate modification, after the energy industry.”.

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

Why is the food strategy important for taking on environment modification?

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

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

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

In addition, virtually all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been due to cleaner energy and increased effectiveness in the energy sector. Changes due to agriculture have been negligible– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

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

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

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

” Theres rather a great deal of siloed thinking of the food system. So, from the viewpoint of integrated national policymaking that delivers, its wonderful.”.

Trying to create a healthier population while farming in a less destructive method requires partnership across disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to agriculture, including rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have caused a third of total worldwide warming given that the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

What parts of the food strategy could make the greatest effect on environment modification?

The proposed framework uses 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 spur innovation to “create a much better food system”. Introducing obligatory reporting on a range of metrics for food business using more than 250 people. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information programme, which would enable businesses and the federal government to examine their development on the goals laid out in the report.

” The question is how rapidly will those reforms actually deal with the climate difficulty … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector requires to do to attain the UK nationwide targets?

Davey calls the recommendations a “good starting point”. He adds:.

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

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

” There are currently lots of meat substitutes on the market and even more so when you consider natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet does not always need to consist of processed meat alternatives would have been important, but that was missed there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

” Another thing that appears 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 recommendations in the report] to come to fulfillment by which time the world might have changed.”.

For example, the recommendation towards purchasing innovation lists alternative proteins as an essential area in requirement of research financing. However, Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is currently really strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

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

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

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

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

Gill also notes that the report, while thorough, does not totally think about the unexpected repercussions of its recommendations. A much higher proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables is squandered than meat. So the suggestions to consume less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you truly require to deal with all kinds of problems. And if you wish to address correctly the environmental issues, plus the health concerns, you actually need to resolve the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

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

The federal government has actually dedicated to producing a reaction to the technique, consisting of proposals for new legislation, within the next six months..

” Implementation of any of those recommendations truly requires political will … The suggestions themselves might have been more progressive, however even the ones that exist do not seem to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

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

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

Establishing the strategy will involve gathering information on farming productivity, priority nature areas for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly contaminated locations. It will also 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 remediation..

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

Sharelines from this story.

Total carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kilogram of different food items. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, implying the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Lowering meat consumption would likewise help minimize the pressure on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the large bulk of that land.

In order to resolve these completing interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use method to finest designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a disaster”. The proposed framework uses the “three compartment model”, 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 spur development to “produce a better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would allow services and the government to assess their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, shows 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 item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance cost”, implying the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.

” Globally, the greatest potential carbon benefit of consuming less meat would not really be the decrease in emissions, however the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

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

” The sort of land that might deliver the biggest ecological advantages is frequently not very agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

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

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are expected to play a significant function in many nations and companies net-zero targets, but a number of these need the repurposing of farming land.

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As a result, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform a task of acrobatics” in supplying sufficient land to produce the necessary food, but also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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