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

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 objectives.

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

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

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

The very first part of the technique, released in July 2020, offered recommendations for the federal government to attend to food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The freshly released second part has actually the mentioned goal of offering a “thorough plan for transforming the food system”..

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

Its objective was to offer a roadmap for transforming the food system from its existing state to one that is healthier for the population and the planet..

” The global food system is the single greatest contributor to biodiversity loss, logging, drought, freshwater contamination and the collapse of marine wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to climate modification, after the energy industry.”.

The reaction 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 first independent evaluation 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 indicate a big change for the better in our food system and make us all 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 report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a catastrophe”. While the existing food system can feeding the “greatest international population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high environmental cost. The report notes:.

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the home nations “food systems are so tightly linked as to remain in places inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “might in turn find some useful concepts” in the method.

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

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

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

Why is the food method essential for taking on environment change?

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

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are due to farming, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have actually caused a 3rd of overall global warming since the commercial revolution”, the report notes.

Under its dedications to the Paris Agreement, the UK has vowed to minimize emissions from 1990 levels by 68% by 2030. The federal government has also set a legally binding target to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Springmann states:.

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

Research suggests that the food system is responsible 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%, but various research studies draw different boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

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

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

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a portion of the 2008 emissions because sector. By 2018, emissions had decreased by 13%, however none of this change was because of enhancements in agriculture. Total emissions reduced by 32% over that exact same time duration. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Additionally, practically 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 agriculture have been negligible– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

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

What parts of the food technique could make the biggest influence on environment change?

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

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms actually address the climate difficulty … I think the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector needs to do to achieve the UK nationwide targets?

Guaranteeing funding for farming payments till at least 2029 at the present level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to aid in the transition to sustainable farming. The report likewise stipulates that at least ₤ 500m of this must be “ring-fenced” for schemes that motivate habitat repair and carbon sequestration, such as peatland remediation. Producing a “rural land use structure” that will recommend on the very best method that any offered piece of land should be used– whether for nature, something, farming or bioenergy else. The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment model”, which pursues a balance between semi-natural land, low-yield farmland and high-yield farmland to meet 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), in addition to smaller sized centres to spur development to “produce a better food system”. The funds would be targeted at innovating fruit and veggie production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, amongst other locations. Minimizing meat intake by 30% over the next decade. The report stops brief of recommending a tax on meat to achieve this aim (as it suggests for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Instead, it mentions, the government needs to go for “nudging consumers into altering their routines”. Presenting obligatory reporting on a variety of metrics for food business using more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would enable companies and the federal government to evaluate their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The program would include both the land-use information and the mandatory reporting information explained above. Bringing these two kinds of data together, the report writes, will help “produce a clear, available and evolving photo of the effect our diet has on nature, environment and public health”.

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

What are the restrictions of the food strategy in attending to climate modification?

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

The report also “actually shied” far from taking a strong position on decreasing meat consumption, Springmann states, with influence on both the environment and public health. He states:.

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

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

” There are currently a lot of meat replaces on the market and even more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that healthy and sustainable diet does not necessarily need to include processed meat alternatives would have been essential, but that was missed out on there and rather 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 an improvement in farming … And its going to take years [for the recommendations in the report] to come to fulfillment by which time the world may have changed.”.

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while comprehensive, does not fully think about the unintended repercussions of its recommendations. For instance, 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.

The suggestions “seem to be almost sort of looking in reverse instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, informs Carbon Brief. She includes:.

For example, the suggestion towards purchasing innovation lists alternative proteins as an essential area in requirement of research study financing. However, Springmann states, the alternative-protein market is currently very well-developed. He informs Carbon Brief:.

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

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

Overall carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of different food. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance expense”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The chart listed 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 (best).

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has approximated 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:.

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

” The sort of land that might deliver the best ecological advantages is typically not really agriculturally efficient. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

Nature-based options, such as peatland repair and afforestation, are expected to play a significant role in lots of countries and business net-zero targets, but numerous of these require the repurposing of agricultural land.

The government has dedicated to producing a reaction to the technique, consisting of propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

UK acreage divided up by function. About 70% is devoted to farming, mainly animals and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the very same scale, reveals how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land usage occurs overseas. The combined acreage for raising beef and lamb for UK intake is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. The proposed framework utilizes the “3 compartment model”, which makes every effort 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 stimulate development to “develop a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system data programme, which would allow businesses and the federal government to evaluate their progress on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the same scale, reveals how much land is utilized 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 expense”, implying the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

Establishing the method will involve collecting data on agricultural productivity, concern nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted locations. It will likewise build on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– launched earlier this year– in order to recognize the land finest suited for nature restoration..

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, alerts Springmann:.

The report keeps in mind that with the right rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique might be mutually useful towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

” Globally, the most significant prospective carbon advantage of eating less meat would not really be the reduction in emissions, however the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to perform a feat of acrobatics” in supplying enough land to produce the required food, however likewise to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

In order to attend to these competing interests, the report calls for a national land-use technique to best assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

Sharelines from this story.

Reducing meat intake would likewise help alleviate 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.

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

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