Food campaigners hail victory for the climate

16th Jun 23 by Christina O'Sullivan

Court of Appeal rules that a Judicial review on the legality of the Government’s Food Strategy should proceed

On June 16, the Court of Appeal upheld our claim that the government’s failure to adopt measures to reduce meat and dairy production and consumption in its Food Strategy published in June 2022 was arguably unlawful. A full judicial review hearing will take place in the Court of Appeal in autumn to rule on the legality of the government’s Food Strategy.  

Senior president of tribunals, Lord Justice Keith Lindblom, stated this would allow the arguments to be fully debated in a longer hearing. “The issue of climate change itself and the steps to be taken to achieve net zero are in themselves matters of public interest,” he concluded. 

The livestock industry is responsible for about 14.5% of global emissions and, if current trends continue, the global livestock industry will be using up almost half the world’s 1.5°C emissions budget by 2030. This means tackling emissions from the food and farming sector is key for the government to meet climate targets.  

The Net Zero Strategy published in 2021 expressly stated that the Food Strategy would support the delivery of the Net Zero target, outlining how carbon budgets would be met in the food system.

However, Leigh Day representing us argued that the Food Strategy neither addressed the emissions impact of meat and dairy, nor put in place policies for their mitigation. The full hearing in October will determine if this omission was unlawful. Central to the argument will be whether the Secretary of State relied on the Food Strategy to discharge his duty under Section 13 of the Climate Change Act, which compels him to put in place policies to ensure carbon budgets are met.  

Both the independent review of the National Food Strategy written by Henry Dimbleby and commissioned by the government in 2019 and the Climate Change Committee (CCC) have identified substantial reductions in meat and dairy as essential to tackle climate change. In 2020, it recommended a 20% reduction in meat and dairy consumption by 2030, and a 35% reduction for meat by 2050, as part of its Balanced Net Zero Pathway scenario. 

David Wolfe KC argued for Feedback that the government’s failure to incorporate this advice, in particular the CCC’s recommendations, or explain why it opted to not adopt their expert recommendations was unlawful. This will be decided at the full hearing in October.  

“We have long known the government’s food strategy was completely useless, today’s ruling suggests it may also be unlawful. The Climate Change Committee has repeatedly sounded the alarm over the climate impacts of livestock and recommended an accelerated shift away from unsustainable diets. We’re confident that the ruling in October will compel the government to re-write the Food Strategy and start listening to its own expert climate advisors.” Carina Millstone, Executive Director of Feedback 


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