UK Ministers have been told to push for a public reduction in meat and dairy intake by 20% by 2030, to keep the country on track to meet climate change targets.

This recommendation by the Climate Change Committee was first made to the UK Government back in December 2020, but was reiterated as part of a series of 200 recommendations made to the Parliament last week.

The CCC published two progress reports last Thursday, showing the UK lagging behind on its key goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 78% by 2035 and offered recommendations on how to get 'back on track'.

Some of the recommendations made specifically to the Defra, included planting 2% of farmland with trees by 2035, extending hedgerows by 20% by 2035 and encouraging a 20% shift away from all meat and dairy by 2030, with meat consumption being reduced by 35% by 2050.

The report stated: “Progress in agriculture and land use has repeatedly failed to meet the indicators (e.g. for tree planting and on-farm efficiency measures) outlined in the Committee’s progress reports in recent years. There are signs of potential consumer willingness to shift towards less carbon-intensive diets, but this has not yet translated to reduced meat consumption or been backed up by policy to support the change.”

The UK Government have not yet confirmed or denied whether they will call for a reduction in meat and dairy consumption. A Defra spokesperson told The SF: “We want people to have healthy, balanced diets and meat and dairy products are an important part of this alongside fibre, fruit and vegetables.

“We recognise the contribution to greenhouse gas emissions made by the livestock and dairy sectors. While food choices can have an impact on greenhouse gas emissions, well-managed livestock provide environmental benefits such as supporting biodiversity, protecting the character of the countryside and generating important income for rural communities. Our future farming policy will create cleaner, greener landscapes, helping build towards the government’s environmental goals and net zero commitments.”

NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy added that the CCC shouldn't be calling for major policy changes using science that is 30 years out of date and argued that taking a silo-ed view on the environment is 'dangerous': “Grazing livestock are definitely a major part of the solution when it comes to the environment, in terms of preserving and growing soil carbon; controlling vegetation and contributing massively to improving biodiversity.

“From an economic perspective, livestock remain crucial to Scotland’s economy, and red meat remains an essential part of a diet that promotes good health, especially in the younger generation.

“And from a Scottish perspective, high quality food production can be delivered by locally-reared livestock with a far lower carbon footprint than offshoring our emissions to countries that do not share our values."

The English NFU urged caution that the Government's new global trade agenda doesn't undermine the climate efforts of UK farmers: “It is vital that our climate policy is aligned with our trade policy and that we hold any agri-food imports to the standards legally required of our own farmers," said NFU deputy president, Stuart Roberts. “Otherwise we will simply be exporting our carbon footprint abroad which will do nothing to help the global charge against climate change."