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

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

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

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 standards and targets for long-lasting modification in the food system..

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

Last week, part 2 of Englands National Food Method (NFS) was released, supplying a broad introduction of the state of the “food system”– a comprehensive term that covers the production, processing, transportation and usage of food– in England..

The very first part of the strategy, released in July 2020, provided recommendations for the federal government to address food insecurity and hunger in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly published 2nd part has actually the mentioned goal of offering a “extensive prepare for changing the food system”..

What is the National Food Strategy?

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

The reaction to recentlys release saw members of parliament, celebrity chefs and even rockstars weighing in on its significance.

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

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

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

This report by @food_strategy has some intriguing and far reaching ideas that would imply a big change for the much 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.

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

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

The scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house nations “food systems are so firmly linked as to be in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn find some helpful concepts” in the method.

” The global food system is the single most significant contributor to biodiversity loss, logging, drought, freshwater contamination and the collapse of water wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to climate change, after the energy market.”.

Why is the food technique crucial for taking on climate modification?

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

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed believing about the food system. So, from the perspective of integrated national policymaking that provides, its fantastic.”.

The food system has seen considerably 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 reduced by nearly one-third since 2008, but food-related emissions have reduced by only 13% over the very same time..

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

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

Attempting to create a healthier population while farming in a less harmful method needs collaboration throughout disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

Research recommends 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 scientist 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.).

Under its dedications to the Paris Agreement, the UK has pledged to decrease 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 states:.

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, consisting of rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have actually triggered a third of overall international warming given that the industrial transformation”, the report notes.

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

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

Davey calls the recommendations a “excellent starting point”. He includes:.

Guaranteeing financing for agricultural payments until at least 2029 at the current level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to aid in the shift to sustainable farming. The report also stipulates that at least ₤ 500m of this ought to be “ring-fenced” for plans that encourage habitat restoration and carbon sequestration, such as peatland remediation. Producing a “rural land usage structure” that will recommend on the very best way that any provided piece of land must 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), along with smaller sized centres to spur development to “produce a much better food system”. The funds would be intended at innovating fruit and veggie production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, to name a few locations. Reducing meat consumption by 30% over the next decade. The report stops short of recommending a tax on meat to achieve this goal (as it suggests for sugar and salt purchased wholesale). Instead, it mentions, the government must go for “nudging customers into altering their habits”. Presenting necessary reporting on a range of metrics for food business employing more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system information program, which would enable companies and the government to examine their development on the goals set out in the report. The programme would consist of both the land-use information and the necessary reporting data explained above. Bringing these two kinds of data together, the report composes, will help “develop a clear, available and progressing photo of the effect our diet has on nature, environment and public health”.

A lot of the suggestions made in the report relate in some way to climate change or ecological sustainability. These recommendations consist of:.

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms truly resolve the environment challenge … 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 accomplish the UK nationwide targets? I do not understand. Its certainly a step in the best instructions, however theres probably an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

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

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

For instance, the suggestion towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as a key location in need of research study financing. However, Springmann says, the alternative-protein market is currently very well-developed. He tells Carbon Brief:.

The suggestions “seem to be almost 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, informs Carbon Brief. She adds:.

” Another thing that seems 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 recommendations in the report] to come to fruition by which time the world might have altered.”.

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

Gill also notes that the report, while comprehensive, does not completely consider the unexpected effects of its recommendations. For instance, a much higher percentage of fresh fruits and veggies is lost than meat. So the recommendations to consume less meat may increase the quantity of food waste.

” There are already a lot of meat replaces on the market and much more so when you think about natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more plainly that healthy and sustainable diet doesnt necessarily require to include processed meat options would have been essential, but that was missed there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The report also “truly shied” far from taking a strong position on decreasing meat intake, Springmann says, with effects on both the environment and public health. He says:.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you really need to deal with all type of problems. And if you wish to attend to effectively the environmental issues, plus the health issues, you truly have to resolve the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

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

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

Establishing the technique will include gathering information on agricultural productivity, priority nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and extremely contaminated 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 finest suited for nature remediation..

Nature-based solutions, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are anticipated to play a major role in lots of countries and business net-zero targets, but numerous of these require the repurposing of agricultural land.

As a result, the report states, the food system is being “asked to perform a task of balancings” in supplying enough land to produce the essential food, but also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment model”, which makes every effort 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 development to “create a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would enable services and the federal government to assess their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the same scale, shows 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 product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity expense”, meaning the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

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

Decreasing meat intake would likewise help alleviate 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 large bulk of that land.

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

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually 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:.

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kg of various food items. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions related to the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity cost”, indicating the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

UK acreage divided up by purpose. About 70% is devoted to agriculture, primarily livestock and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the same scale, demonstrates how much land is used overseas to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land usage happens overseas. The combined acreage for rearing beef and lamb for UK usage is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

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

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

In order to attend to these competing interests, the report calls for a national land-use strategy to best allocate land to nature, carbon sequestration and farming.

” The kind of land that might provide the biggest ecological benefits is frequently not extremely agriculturally efficient. The most efficient 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

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

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 (right).

The government has actually dedicated to producing a response to the method, including proposals for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

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