Changing the way we eat is key to preventing dangerous climate change, and better policies are needed to drive the transition towards healthier, sustainable diets. With the launch of the Eating Better Alliance’s policy recommendations we call on governments to take urgent action on the meat in our diets, for the sake of our health and the planet.
Achieving 1.5oC depends on food
2015 ended with an historic climate deal in Paris – to keep global temperature rise to 1.5 oC. It is an ambitious, hopeful target that will require drastic cuts to our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. When most of us think about cutting our emissions we think about renewable energy, we think about transport – the cars we drive and the flights we take. We maybe think about wasting less food and about protecting our beautiful forests. But we rarely think about what we eat.
Yet a missing trick stares us in the face three times a day – it’s what we’re eating. With a staggering third of all global GHG emissions coming from the food system, 2016 is the year we all need to wake up to how food and farming can help us deliver better health for people and the planet. Meat is typically the most GHG intensive part of our diet, accounting for at least 14.5 per cent of global GHG emissions, as significant as emissions from transport.
Tackling food waste alone is not enough
There is no hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change if we continue to ignore the impact of the meat in our diets. Reducing food waste and improving the ways we produce food are both essential, but not enough. Modifying our eating patterns must be a priority too.
If most of us eat a bit less meat, maybe not with every meal, and a greater variety of plant-based foods, we’ll be healthier and the impact of our diet on the environment will be much lower – new research suggests that halving the amount of meat and dairy that we consume would reduce rates of heart disease and cancer, and cut greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by up to 42%. If the meat we consume is ‘better’, produced to higher welfare and environmental standards, then we’ll be making sure we’re encouraging greener farming that benefits animals and supports farmers to earn a sustainable living – we’ll be helping to shape a sustainable food system fit for the future. Feeding a growing and more affluent global population healthily, fairly and sustainably simply isn’t possible unless we make these kinds of changes – and we need to start making them now.
Policy makers must play their part
Governments have a huge role to play in driving this shift in our eating habits. To help focus attention on what’s needed, the Eating Better alliance has launched its 2016 Policy Recommendations. We’re delighted that WWF is one of the 47 environmental, public health, animal welfare and responsible food organisations backing the alliance’s proposals. Together we present a clear message for policy makers: it is time to implement policies that help people make the transition towards eating less, and better, meat and more plants.
Our recommendations focus on key strategies for promoting healthy, sustainable diets. These include placing food and agriculture at the core of plans to tackle climate change, and building sustainability right into all agriculture and healthy eating policies. This would ensure, for example, that meals bought with tax-payer’s money and served in hospitals and schools are healthy and sustainable, or that official healthy eating advice takes sustainability into consideration.
We can’t legislate for behaviour change – but a lot can be done to make healthier, more sustainable options the easier choice for most of us. it’s time for governments to step up to the plate.
Find out how to get involved and sign up for our newsletter here: www.eating-better.org