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

Last week, part 2 of Englands National Food Technique (NFS) was published, providing a broad summary of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and intake of food– in England..

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

The first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, provided suggestions for the government to deal with food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly released 2nd part has the stated objective of offering a “thorough strategy for changing the food system”..

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

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

The federal government has actually dedicated to producing a white paper and propositions for future laws in action within the next 6 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.

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a catastrophe”. While the existing food system can feeding the “greatest worldwide population in human history”, it states, this comes at a high environmental cost. The report notes:.

” The international food system is the single most significant factor to biodiversity loss, logging, dry spell, freshwater pollution and the collapse of marine wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment change, after the energy industry.”.

Why is the food technique crucial for tackling environment modification?

Other significant contributors to the emissions include transportation, food and fertiliser production and packaging..

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

Research study recommends that the food system is responsible for about one-third of worldwide 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 different research studies draw different boundaries around what counts as the food sector.).

Attempting to develop a much healthier population while farming in a less destructive way requires cooperation throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He states:.

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

” Theres rather a lot of siloed thinking of the food system. So, from the perspective of integrated nationwide policymaking that provides, its wonderful.”.

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are because of agriculture, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have actually triggered a 3rd of total international warming because the industrial transformation”, the report notes.

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

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

The food system has seen substantially 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 almost one-third since 2008, however food-related emissions have reduced by only 13% over the same time..

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

” The concern 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 viewpoint of what the land sector requires to do to achieve the UK nationwide targets? I dont understand. Its definitely an action in the best direction, but theres most likely an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

A number of the recommendations made in the report relate in some method to environment modification or ecological sustainability. These recommendations include:.

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

The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment model”, which makes every effort 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 stimulate development to “develop a much better food system”. Introducing mandatory 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 nationwide food system data programme, which would permit companies and the government to examine their progress on the objectives laid out in the report.

What are the limitations of the food technique in attending to climate modification?

Gill also notes that the report, while thorough, does not fully consider the unexpected repercussions of its suggestions. For instance, a much greater proportion of fresh vegetables and fruits is squandered than meat. So the recommendations to eat less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

” Another thing that appears 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 may have changed.”.

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

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

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

The suggestion towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as a crucial location in requirement of research financing. Nevertheless, Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is already very strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

The commissioning of the report– it was led by business owner and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– implies the report itself “shows a bit of a manipulated focus” towards business-focused options, Springmann says.

The food system “is extremely intricate”, Gill states, “but I do not think thats any excuse for not in fact highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

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

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

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

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

Reducing meat usage would likewise help relieve the pressure on land resources, the report discovers. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb taking up the vast majority of that land.

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

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

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

” The sort of land that could provide the biggest ecological benefits is typically not very agriculturally productive. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

In order to address these competing interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use method to best designate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

Nature-based options, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are expected to play a significant role in many nations and companies net-zero targets, but numerous of these need the repurposing of agricultural land.

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

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to perform an accomplishment of acrobatics” in supplying enough land to produce the necessary food, but also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

” Implementation of any of those suggestions actually needs 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.”.

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

Overall carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kg of different food products. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity 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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” Globally, the biggest possible carbon advantage of eating less meat would not actually be the decrease in emissions, but the opportunity to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

Establishing the strategy will include gathering information on agricultural performance, priority nature locations for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely polluted locations. It will also construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– released previously this year– in order to determine the land best fit for nature restoration..

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a catastrophe and a wonder”. The proposed framework utilizes the “3 compartment design”, which aims for a balance in 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), as well as smaller centres to spur innovation to “produce a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information programme, which would enable companies and the government to examine their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the very same scale, reveals how much land is utilized overseas 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 reveal the carbon “opportunity expense”, suggesting the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food.