Feedback responds to recommendations for Net Zero emissions by 2050

6th May 19 by Jessica Sinclair Taylor and Megan Romania

The Committee on Climate Change's guidance recommends a 20% cut in beef and lamb - will that be enough to reduce emissions?

On 2 May 2019, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) released their report on the UK’s contribution to stopping global warming by reaching Net Zero Greenhouse Gas emissions by 2050. In essence, the CCC recommends that the UK commit to ‘clear, stable and well-designed policies’ to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050, including a 20% reduction in consumption of beef, lamb and dairy, zero biodegradable waste to landfill by 2025, and afforestation of around 30,000 hectares per year. In addition, the CCC points out that public behaviour changes are essential to facilitate the greater ambition from an 80% fall in GHG emissions by 2050, to net zero by 2050.

While the CCC’s recommendations make it clear that public action will be required to reduce at least half of the emissions needed to reach Net Zero, their report only touches lightly on demand-side measures to address the environmental crisis, leaving a critical gap concerning concrete policy recommendations that the UK could adapt to tap into the vast potential of demand-side mitigation strategies. Demand-side measures to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions present double or even triple wins; for instance, nurturing the UK’s horticultural food production to shorten supply chains and encouraging public institutions to locally source food offer possibilities to increase employment opportunities in the UK food sector and cultivate regional prosperity and resilience. The UK cannot afford to overlook demand-side interventions if we are to achieve ambitious decarbonisation targets.

And despite the progress the CCC’s recommendations represent, a goal of Net Zero by 2050 may simply not be ambitious enough. As Greta Thunberg recently pointed out in her visit to the UK parliament, the UK has only reduced its emissions by 10% since 1990 if you factor in aviation, shipping and imports/exports. In the context of the efforts of Extinction Rebellion and others to seriously ramp up ambition, we should be setting the bar even higher for UK emissions targets. And the greater the ambition, the greater the role demand-side measures will have to play – without rapid adoption of low-waste, plant-heavy diets, we will continue to crash through targets as well as ecological boundaries. To address the demand-side gap in the CCC report, Feedback has developed a policy brief, including various possible demand-side policy measures that could be adopted by the UK government (see full response here) with regards to public diets, food waste, and the supply chain. Specifically, we recommended:

Public diets – cutting meat and dairy consumption by 50% by 2030:
  • Implement a cross-government set of public dietary targets focused on shifting the public towards plant-based proteins, reducing public consumption of meat and dairy by 50% by 2030, and adopting a ‘less and better’ approach as advocated by Eating Better.
  • Apply these targets to public procurement guidelines in order to shift public food procurement towards a ‘less and better’ approach and model behaviour change needed.
  • Create an industry agreement to implement dietary shift targets across retailers, food service and hospitality, similar to the Courtauld 2025 targets on food waste.
  • Impose a ban on advertising of meat products across all mediums, including online, similar to the ban on tobacco advertising.
  • Implement behaviour change campaigns targeting a broad section of the public, focused on the well-evidenced health benefits of a plant-based diet.
  • Create new environmental labelling schemes in order to give customers clear guidance on ‘better’ meat and dairy.
Food supply chains – cutting food waste across the supply chain by 50% by 2030:
  • Implement a binding national target to halve food waste across the entire supply chain (including at farm-level) by 2030, backed up by rigorous measurement of food waste at all stages of the supply chain.
  • Require all food businesses over a certain size to report on their food waste generated throughout the supply chain.
  • Tighten regulations to require food businesses to comply with the food use hierarchy, including penalising breaches of the food use hierarchy, such as the practice of sending edible food to Anaerobic Digestion for disposal.
  • De-regulate the ban on feeding food waste to pigs and implementing regulation to guide the safe processing, treatment and feeding of pigs using food surplus which cannot be safely redistributed to human consumption (Feedback 2018b).
Shortening supply chains:
  • Local government should facilitate new food business entrants to the procurement marketplace, prioritising those with regional operations, and that have local ownership or a cooperative ownership structure. This could include seeding new employee-owned businesses to meet local demand.
  • Facilitating the engagement of a larger number of smaller suppliers by providing centralised services such as transport hubs that reduce the number of delivery journeys required in and out of major procurement centres
  • Implementing a procurement scorecard or weighting system which prioritises environmental outcomes, including food waste reduction and meat and dairy reduction, in food service delivery contracts for public institutions.

Read the full policy brief here.

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