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

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

The first part of the technique, released in July 2020, offered recommendations for the government to resolve food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly published 2nd part has actually the stated objective of offering a “comprehensive strategy for transforming the food system”..

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

Last week, sequel of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was released, providing a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and intake of food– in England..

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

In this Q&A, Carbon Brief explains and examines 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?

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

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

The scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the house nations “food systems are so securely interwoven as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved governments “might in turn discover some useful concepts” in the method.

The NFS has actually definitely brought these concerns to the forefront, Edward Davey, the international engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief. He describes:.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is the food method crucial for taking on environment modification?

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

Attempting to produce a much healthier population while farming in a less damaging method requires partnership throughout disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He says:.

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

” Theres quite a lot of siloed thinking of the food system. So, from the viewpoint of integrated national policymaking that delivers, its fantastic.”.

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

Almost half of all food-related emissions are due to farming, consisting of rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “estimated to have actually caused a 3rd of total international warming since the industrial transformation”, the report notes.

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

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

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

In addition, practically all of the gains made in the food sector have actually been because of cleaner energy and increased effectiveness in the energy sector. Modifications due to farming have actually been negligible– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

What parts of the food strategy could make the most significant impact on climate change?

Ensuring financing for farming payments up until a minimum of 2029 at the present level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to assist in the shift to sustainable farming. The report likewise stipulates that at least ₤ 500m of this should be “ring-fenced” for plans that encourage environment remediation and carbon sequestration, such as peatland repair. Creating a “rural land use structure” that will encourage on the finest way that any provided piece of land should be used– whether for nature, something, agriculture or bioenergy 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 centres to spur innovation to “develop a much better food system”. The funds would be targeted at innovating fruit and veggie production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, among other locations. Minimizing meat usage by 30% over the next decade. The report stops brief of recommending a tax on meat to attain this objective (as it recommends for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Rather, it specifies, the federal government should aim for “nudging customers into altering their practices”. Presenting necessary reporting on a range of metrics for food companies utilizing 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 services and the government to evaluate their development on the goals laid out in the report. The program would include both the land-use data and the necessary reporting information explained above. Bringing these two kinds of information together, the report composes, will assist “produce a clear, available and progressing image of the effect our diet plan has on nature, environment and public health”.

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms really resolve the climate difficulty … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the viewpoint of what the land sector needs to do to achieve the UK nationwide targets? I dont understand. Its definitely an action in the ideal direction, but theres probably an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

Davey calls the suggestions a “good starting point”. However, he adds:.

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

What are the limitations of the food method in resolving climate change?

Gill also notes that the report, while extensive, does not fully think about the unintended repercussions of its suggestions. For instance, a much higher percentage of fresh vegetables and fruits is lost than meat. So the recommendations to eat less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

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

” 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 fruition by which time the world might have changed.”.

The suggestion towards investing in development lists alternative proteins as an essential location in need of research study financing. Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is currently really strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

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

The food system “is very complicated”, Gill states, “but I do not believe thats any excuse for not actually highlighting some of those issues right at the start”.

” There are already a lot of meat replaces on the marketplace and even more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more plainly that sustainable and healthy diet does not necessarily require to include processed meat options would have been necessary, but that was missed out on there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The report likewise “actually shied” away from taking a strong position on decreasing meat usage, Springmann says, with influence on both the environment and public health. He says:.

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

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

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

In order to resolve these competing interests, the report requires a nationwide land-use technique to finest allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

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

The report itself calls the food system “both a wonder and a disaster”. The proposed framework utilizes the “three compartment design”, which aims for 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 centres to stimulate innovation to “create a better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would permit companies and the government to examine their progress on the goals laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, reveals how much land is used overseas to produce food for the UK. The teal bars show the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “chance expense”, meaning the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

The right-hand side of the chart, using the very same scale, shows how much land is used 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.

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

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

Nevertheless, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually already shown his hesitancy to support a few of the policy recommendations set out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, cautions Springmann:.

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

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

Developing the method will include gathering data on agricultural performance, concern nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted locations. It will likewise construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action strategies– launched previously this year– in order to identify the land best fit for nature remediation..

The chart listed below demonstrate how all land in the UK is allocated (left) and how much abroad land is utilized to produce food for the UK (best).

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

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

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Reducing meat intake would likewise help relieve the strain on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is devoted to farming, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the large majority of that land.

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The report keeps in mind that with the ideal rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy could be equally beneficial towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

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

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of numerous food products. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity expense”, implying the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land utilized to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.