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UK citizens tell government: We'll eat less meat to hit climate goals

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·3-min read
FILE - In this file photo taken on Monday, July 18, 2016, butchers prepare cuts of meat at Smithfield Market, in London.  A shortage of carbon dioxide in Europe is hitting food processing companies who rely on the gas to stun animals before slaughter, as it is announced Tuesday June 26, 2018, that some meat processing plants will run out of CO2 within days. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, FILE)
The Climate Assembly UK report calls for Brits to cut down on eating meat and dairy. Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

A landmark project asking a cross-section of Britain how the UK should reduce its carbon emissions has delivered its final report, containing over 50 recommendations for the government on everything from energy generation to farming.

The Climate Assembly UK report, published on Thursday, backed proposals including the large-scale planting of trees to capture carbon, reduced car usage and increased reliance on solar and wind energy.

Perhaps the most radical suggestion is a call for Brits to cut down on eating meat and dairy by 20-40%. The Assembly, which was made up of over 100 people from all walks of life, said dietary changes should be voluntary rather than compulsory and said the government had a key role to play in educating people on the impact of meat and dairy on the environment.

READ MORE: May sets 'net zero' carbon emission target as she eyes a Downing Street legacy

Other key recommendations from the report include:

  • accelerating the shift towards electric vehicles;

  • banning the sale of high polluting vehicles such as SUVs and reducing car usage by 2-5% per decade;

  • investing in green infrastructure such as high speed rail and ‘green’ buses;

  • taxing frequent fliers and longer air journeys;

  • limiting the increase in air passengers to 25-50% by 2050;

  • banning the sale of new gas boilers by 2030-35;

  • increased reliance on renting and sharing of goods to reduce overall consumer consumption;

  • and more home-working and other ‘green’ lifestyle changes.

The recommendations form the backbone of a report delivered to six Parliamentary Select Committees this week. The committees jointly set up the Climate Assembly UK last year in response to the government’s pledge to turn the UK into a net zero carbon economy by 2050.

“This is an extremely important contribution to the debate on how the UK reaches our net zero target and I hope it gives impetus to policy makers to take bold action to reduce our emissions,” Darren Jones MP, chair of the Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Select Committee, said in a statement.

READ MORE: May's net-zero emission plan could cost £50bn a year — but might just work

The Climate Assembly met over five months between January and May this year to consider topics ranging from carbon capture and energy generation to transport and farming.

The Assembly was made up of a representative sample of the UK, with participants picked from all walks of life and all corners of Britain. The youngest participant was 16, while the oldest was 79.

“The range of voices within these pages reflect our population,” Jones said. “The fact that assembly members have been able to arrive at clear recommendations whilst respecting each others' values and experiences sets an example for us all.”

The Assembly received expert evidence from academics, business leaders, and other interested parties, including Sir David Attenborough. Members then chose a range of proposals on a number of key policy issues.

READ MORE: Barclays among first banks to sign up to 'net zero' financing pledge

Underpinning all the recommendations was a call for cross-party unity on climate issues and clear leadership from government. The Assembly said greater education was also needed to ensure the population understood the challenges facing the country and the options available to tackle them.

“There was an overwhelming sense that the government should take action for the long term, on the back of cross-party consensus, to bring certainty and a clear sense of direction for everyone,” the six select committee chairs wrote in a letter to UK prime minister Boris Johnson on Thursday.

The Assembly also emphasised that environmental policies must be fair, ensuring that the poorest or most vulnerable do not suffer as a result of a shift towards a greener economy. The report recommended more devolution of power to give local communities the ability to find local solutions for things like energy generation and food supply.