Sustainable diets not on the menu in Paris

REDUCING MEAT consumption does not feature in a single national emissions reduction plan submitted in advance of the COP21 climate change meeting in Paris.

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Starting this week, the talks could see a new global deal struck to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the commitments will not be enough to keep temperature rises within the two-degree limit.


Eating less meat could help plug the gap, but it’s up to governments to taker the lead in delivering mass behaviour change, according to a report published by Chatham House today.


“Governments are the only actors with the necessary resources and capacities to redirect diets at scale towards more sustainable, plant-based sources of protein,” the report’s authors note.


Politicians have long been reluctant to interfere in lifestyle choices for fear of public backlash, but these are exaggerated the researchers said. A public survey in 12 countries and focus groups in the UK, US, Brazil and China, found that once they are aware of the link between meat and climate change, consumers accept the need for government action.


“Even unpopular interventions to make meat more expensive, for example through a carbon tax, would face diminishing resistance as [people] come to understand the rationale behind intervention,” the authors note.


Public understanding of the link between livestock and climate change is low relative to that for comparable sources of emissions, the researchers discovered.


The absence of a strong signal from government to promote low-meat diets has also discouraged private investment in research and development, they said.


Last week Sodexo become one of only a handful of companies to actively promote “less meat” when it launched a pilot of “Green & Lean” meals in eight independent schools.