UK Climate Change group backs 20% cut in red meat and dairy consumption

UK Climate Change group backs 20% cut in red meat and dairy consumption

The UK needs to reduce the amount of beef, lamb and dairy products it consumes by 20% if it is to honour its commitment to becoming a ‘net zero’ economy by 2050.

Together with a 20% cut in food waste, it comprises one of five action points on changing land use that need to be made policy, according to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

The others are an increase in tree-planting, the greater use of low-carbon farming practices, the restoration of peatlands, and an increase in bio-energy crops.

The committee estimates the actions will have a cost of about £1.4bn, but will generate wider benefits valued at £4.4bn.

Lord Deben, chairman of the committee, an independent body that advises government, said: “In 2017, land use – including agriculture, forestry and peatland – accounted for 12% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions.

“By 2050, with the right support, farmers and land-managers can reduce these emissions by almost two thirds. This transition is necessary for ‘net zero’, it will create net benefits for the UK and leave our land more resilient to the changing climate.

The committee is proposing a mix of regulations and incentives to drive these changes and provide land managers with the long-term clarity they need. The actions identified would release around one-fifth of agricultural land for actions that reduce emissions and store carbon.

NFU President Minette Batters responded: “I’m pleased to see the report acknowledge that British farming produces some of the most sustainable food in the world, highlighting that emissions from UK beef is half that of the global average.

“The report also emphasises that we can’t risk importing food with a higher carbon footprint than food which has been produced in the UK.

“When talking about changing diets, plant-based products do not always necessarily have a lower impact on the environment. It all depends on where and how the ingredients have been produced, the environmental pressures involved in its production, the environmental management associated with that country’s agricultural system and the environmental resources available, as well as how far the product has travelled.

“I believe British farmers are very much part of the solution. We want to be the model for climate-friendly food production around the world – food production that continues to include nutritious beef, lamb and dairy products for the world to enjoy as part of a healthy, balanced diet.”

The Climate Change Committee’s new report, ‘Land use: Policies for a Net Zero UK’, presents a detailed range of options to drive emissions reductions in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.