The Vegan Society is asking the UK Government to stop ignoring the science on diets and climate after the latest climate target was announced this week.
The new government target aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. It has been taken from the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) 6th Carbon Budget report and is widely reported as following the CCC recommendations. However, statements taken from the government website suggest officials intend to ignore the recommendation that dietary change and targets to reduce the consumption of animal products should form part of the UK’s plan.
This is cause for concern as the UK is currently not on track to meet its emissions reduction target for 2023, set out in its 4th carbon budget, putting in to doubt the UK’s ability to meet existing targets.
The government is clearly aware of the science in relation to climate and animal products, with Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng himself, while speaking at yesterday’s Earth Summit, acknowledging that vegans, and those actively reducing their meat intake, are driving the progress forward.
There’s currently estimated to be around 600,000 vegans in the UK, with numbers expected to rise in the next couple of years. It is encouraging that government ministers are willing to talk openly about the contribution vegans are making. However, Kwasi Kwarteng’s suggestion that people are coming to that conclusion without government interference, fails to acknowledge that there are still too many educational and institutional barriers that slow the adoption of plant-based diets - particularly amongst those who are not motivated by animal rights or welfare.
These barriers include: failure to guarantee at least one nutritionally balanced plant-based meal option on all public sector menus, failure to improve access to plant-based foods by supporting new plant-based businesses to set up, failure to run awareness campaigns that communicate the impact dietary choices have on climate, as The Vegan Society does though its Plate Up for the Planet campaign connecting climate change with public health and promoting the benefits of varied plant-based diets, rich in pulses, fruit, vegetables, and wholegrains.
Louise Davies, CEO of The Vegan Society, says: “There is a long list of interventions, big and small, that do not restrict people’s freedom to choose, but bring down those barriers that currently discourage people from choosing healthy, ethical and climate-friendly vegan options.”
“If it wants to tackle the multiple public health and environmental crises that we face the Government must rethink its approach to dietary change before the? COP 26 climate conference later this year, failing to do so will mean wasted time, and wasted lives. We can no longer avoid talking about what we eat.”
It’s clear that achieving these tough targets will require action in all sectors of the economy, and food is one of those areas which can empower individuals to help us achieve the national target.
Instead of actively promoting the take-up of vegan diets, the government intends to rely on ‘new green technologies and innovation’ much of which is yet unproven. The precautionary principle would suggest that adopting practices which the scientific community already support would be a wiser move than relying on future inventions.