WWF-UK and the Food Ethics Council have today, (Monday 21st September), published a framework for farmers, policy makers and environmental groups to begin addressing the contribution of livestock consumption to climate change.
‘Livestock Consumption and Climate Change: A Framework for Dialogue’ was commissioned from the FEC as part of WWF’s One Planet Food programme*.
The report highlights the efforts already being made by industry to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of livestock products – both meat and dairy. Changes to agricultural and industrial techniques can deliver significant cuts to GHG emissions. However, a roundtable convened as part of the report showed there was an acceptance in the food industry – producers, processors and retailers – to discuss how additional reductions can be made.
The consumption of food accounts for around a fifth of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. The report thus maps a wide range of interventions that could change consumption behaviour and, in turn, reduce livestock-related GHG emissions. The 27 interventions range from those that directly seek to influence consumer behaviour, to fiscal measures and policies that would result in higher prices for products that have higher emissions.
Government recognises its responsibility to show leadership in promoting sustainable consumption and production, so the report focuses on how this might be achieved. WWF-UK and the FEC urges government to use the framework to open constructive debate on consumption and climate change with the livestock industry and environmental groups.
Tom MacMillan, executive director of the FEC, said:
“This framework worked well when we trialled it with people from the industry and from government. It enabled all sides to agree that it is important to pursue GHG emissions reductions in the livestock sector through changes in consumption, as well as through technical abatement in production. That meant the group could move on to the crucial business of comparing the pros and cons of going about this in different ways.”
Mark Driscoll, head of WWF’s One Planet Food programme, added:
“Producers, processors and retailers are already making progress in terms of reducing emissions from their businesses and products. However, until now they have had little guidance on the possibilities of making further reductions through changes in consumer behaviour. It’s up to government to give them that direction. This report provides a useful starting point for that process. It doesn’t provide all the answers, but it will stimulate what we hope will be a positive, productive and open debate involving every rung of the food chain.”
Support for the report:
Sir Don Curry, Advisor to the Secretary of State (Defra) on Food and Farming, who was interviewed for the project, said: “This is a debate that is urgently needed. We need to understand much better the environmental balance sheet as far as livestock farming is concerned. The framework in this report provides a strong base for moving forward.”
The full report is available here.
Notes to editors
1. *As part of the One Planet Food initiative, WWF-UK is working to help guide and support the development of a food system that can fulfil the UK’s nutritional, social and economic needs, whilst reducing key environmental impacts. WWF-UK believes that global greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the production and consumption of food destined for the UK are reduced by 25% in 2020 and at least 70% in 2050, based on 1990 levels.
2. The Food Ethics Council is an independent advisory body that works towards a food system that is fair and healthy for people and the environment. Our advice to business, government and civil society helps find a way through controversial issues and supports better choices in food and farming.
3. Those involved in shaping the “Livestock and Climate Change” report included 25 key stakeholders, experts and decision-makers from Defra, the Food Standards Agency, HM Treasury, the Sustainable Development Commission, producer organisations, livestock sector levy boards and businesses that are major purchasers of livestock products.