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24% of UK consumers want regulations to reduce meat and dairy intake

Consumers are willing to take personal steps to combat climate change, so long as their lifestyles don’t change too much and the government intervenes too.

A seven-country YouGov survey, reported exclusively by The Guardian, found many people in the UK, France, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Germany and Spain, were happy with net-zero measures that would not greatly affect the way they lead their lives.

Some 77% of UK respondents for example said they would grow more plants themselves, while 56% would happily never buy products made from single-use plastic again. Far fewer would be content to pay to make their home more energy efficient and fewer still (under 20%) would cut meat and dairy out of their diets completely.

There was more support however for limiting meat and dairy intake to, say, two or three meals a week. What’s more, 24% of UK consumers support government legislation to that effect.

The Climate Change Committee reported in 2021 that there are “signs” of potential consumer willingness to shift towards lower carbon diets, including eating less meat and dairy, but it’s not happening fast enough.

Indeed, one of the committee’s ‘priority recommendations’ to the government is: “Implement measures to encourage consumers to shift diets” including “low-cost, low-regret actions to encourage a 20% shift away from all meat by 2030, rising to 35% by 2050, and a 20% shift from dairy products by 2030”.

YouGov’s poll also found large majorities in all the countries surveyed – including 65% in the UK – who said they were very or fairly worried about climate change and its effects.

Broadly similar percentages said the climate is changing because of human activity, with fewer than 20% of respondents in most countries saying climate change was not due to human activity and a maximum of 5% denying it was even happening.