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

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

The first part of the strategy, released in July 2020, supplied recommendations for the federal government to resolve food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published 2nd part has the mentioned goal of providing a “extensive prepare for transforming the food system”..

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

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

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

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

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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 NFS has certainly brought these issues to the forefront, Edward Davey, the global engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief.

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

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

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

” The worldwide 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 modification, after the energy industry.”.

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 laid out in the report do not go far adequate towards making the food system more sustainable.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a miracle”. While the existing food system is capable of feeding the “biggest worldwide population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high ecological cost. The report notes:.

Why is the food strategy essential for tackling climate change?

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed considering the food system. So, from the point of view of integrated nationwide policymaking that delivers, its wonderful.”.

Essentially all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been due to cleaner energy and increased efficiency in the energy sector. Modifications due to agriculture have been minimal– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to farming, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have caused a third of total worldwide warming since the commercial transformation”, the report notes.

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

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

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

Trying to develop a healthier population while farming in a less destructive method needs collaboration throughout disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He says:.

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

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

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, informs Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, however various studies draw different limits around what counts as the food sector.).

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

Guaranteeing financing for farming payments till a minimum of 2029 at the present level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to help in the shift to sustainable farming. The report likewise stipulates that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this ought to be “ring-fenced” for plans that motivate environment repair and carbon sequestration, such as peatland repair. Developing a “rural land use framework” that will encourage on the best manner in which any provided piece of land need to be utilized– whether for nature, something, bioenergy or agriculture else. The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment design”, which pursues 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), in addition to smaller sized centres to spur innovation to “create a better food system”. The funds would be intended at innovating fruit and vegetable production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few areas. Minimizing meat usage by 30% over the next years. The report stops brief of advising a tax on meat to attain this objective (as it recommends for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Instead, it mentions, the government ought to aim for “nudging customers into altering their routines”. Introducing compulsory reporting on a range of metrics for food business using more than 250 individuals. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would permit organizations and the federal government to assess their progress on the objectives set out in the report. The program would consist of both the land-use information and the mandatory reporting information described above. Bringing these two kinds of information together, the report composes, will help “create a clear, accessible and evolving photo of the impact our diet has on nature, climate and public health”.

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

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

” The question is how quickly will those reforms truly resolve the climate difficulty … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as enthusiastic as it should be, from the perspective of what the land sector needs to do to accomplish the UK national targets? I do not understand. Its definitely an action in the best instructions, but theres probably an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

What are the constraints of the food method in dealing with environment modification?

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

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

The suggestion towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in requirement of research financing. However, Springmann says, the alternative-protein market is already really well-developed. He tells Carbon Brief:.

” Another thing that seems to be missing is that foresighting, wheres the world going to from other sectors … Theres going to be a transformation 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.”.

Gill likewise notes that the report, while thorough, does not totally think about the unintended repercussions of its recommendations. For example, a much greater proportion of fresh fruits and veggies is squandered than meat. The recommendations to consume less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

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

The recommendations “appear to be practically sort of looking in reverse rather than looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, informs Carbon Brief. She adds:.

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

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

” There are currently plenty of meat replaces on the market and a lot more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet plan doesnt always require to consist of processed meat options would have been essential, however that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

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

As a result, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out an accomplishment of acrobatics” in offering adequate land to produce the essential food, however likewise to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.

” Globally, the biggest possible carbon benefit of eating less meat would not in fact be the reduction in emissions, however the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

Overall carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kilogram of various foodstuff. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance cost”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. 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 “produce a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would enable organizations 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, shows 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 product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity cost”, implying the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

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” The kind of land that might provide the best ecological benefits is typically not very agriculturally productive. 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 report notes that with the best incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the technique might be equally beneficial towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

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

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has currently suggested 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:.

The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact 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 consumption is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Nature-based options, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are expected to play a significant function in numerous nations and companies net-zero targets, however much of these need the repurposing of farming land.

The government has committed to producing an action to the technique, consisting of proposals for new legislation, within the next 6 months..

Reducing meat intake would likewise assist reduce the pressure on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is committed to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the huge bulk of that land.

Developing the method will involve collecting information on farming efficiency, priority 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 plans– released previously this year– in order to recognize the land best matched for nature remediation..

In order to deal with these contending interests, the report calls for a national land-use method to best assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

The chart listed below demonstrate how all land in the UK is assigned (left) and how much overseas land is used to produce food for the UK (ideal).

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

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