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Government’s Food Strategy ‘a missed opportunity’ for the climate

The UK Government’s new Food Strategy falls well short of what is required to tackle polluting emissions from agriculture, land use and food production, and create a truly sustainable food system, the Climate Change Committee says.

The 33-page document, published today, seeks to create a ‘more prosperous agri-food sector that delivers healthier, more home-grown and affordable diets.’

However, on first review, the CCC says the plan largely fails to deliver action to drive down emissions at the scale or pace required to achieve reductions in line with UK’s Net Zero pathway. There is also little mention of the adaptations needed in the food system to build resilience to the climate and weather extremes of the future.

CCC Chairman, Lord Deben, said:

“The Government’s Food Strategy will do precious little to tackle emissions from agriculture which is now one of the most serious contributors to climate change. The CCC has set out the case to improve the agricultural sector time and again. A wholesale rethink of how we use land in this country is needed to drive down emissions. That includes eating slightly less but better meat and dairy; widespread tree planting to soak up carbon dioxide emissions; and peatland restoration, alongside new approaches to farming. Instead, this Strategy fails to address these issues and relies almost entirely on innovation and technology to drive forward low-carbon agriculture and productivity improvements, many of which are untested and unproven. This is an opportunity wasted.”

The CCC will comment further on the Food Strategy in its 2022 Progress Report to Parliament, due to be published on 29 June.



Notes to editors

The CCC’s initial review of the UK Government’s Food Strategy suggests that:

    • On diets:
      • The CCC recommends a 20% reduction in meat and dairy by 2030 and 35% reduction for meat by 2050, eating better meat and plant-based alternatives. The CCC also advises societal level shifts new approaches in public sector settings such as schools and hospitals.
      • The Food Strategy emphasises the role of the individual to make healthy and sustainable choices and commits to provide information to consumers to support this shift.
      • Alternative proteins such as beans and pulses are recognised as an opportunity for growth that can complement the livestock sector. However, the strategy places emphasis on continuing livestock production via ‘sustainable approaches’ such as regenerative farming methods.
    • On sustainable farming:
      • CCC has previously set out that, while important, innovation and technological measures alone are not enough to reduce emissions from the agriculture and land use sectors. A strong policy framework is required to integrate innovation and technology alongside shifts in public diets.
      • In the absence of strong measures to address the changes required in diet and demand, the Food Strategy relies on innovation to decarbonise and increase productivity across food chains, though detail is lacking and puts emission reduction at risk
    • On land use:
      • The CCC says diet change has the biggest potential to change how land is used. This then releases land for carbon sequestration measures such as woodland creation, peatland restoration and energy crops and delivers wider benefits such as for climate adaptation and biodiversity. Meeting the CCC’s Net Zero pathway requires the release of 9% of agricultural land by 2035, and 21% by 2050.
      • By targeting least productive land for land use change, the Food Strategy states that domestic food production can be maintained while supporting environmental goals. However, targets are not set and a possible framework for future land use is deferred until 2023.