What’s Going On Here?

The UK needs to start eating differently if it is to hit its Net Zero climate and nature targets. That’s the message from a new report by WWF, which calls for people to get more fruit, vegetables and plant-based protein and eat less meat and dairy. It also highlighted the need to create food environments like supermarkets and canteens that inspire positive changes.

What Does This Mean?

The average UK diet has a carbon footprint of 4.84kg of carbon dioxide equivalent per person, per day. That’s equivalent to driving 25 miles. Shifting to a healthier, more sustainable diet could deliver a 36% reduction in emissions and a 20% reduction in biodiversity loss compared to the way we currently eat.

Eating for Net Zero means including plenty of fruit and veg, wholegrain cereals like bread, rice and pasta, and more plant protein. The diet has less meat, dairy and eggs and fewer treats like sweets and crisps than the current UK diet. WWF claims it’s possible to stick to its Livewell diet without spending more on your food shop.

But it’s not just about individual preferences. The report emphasises the importance of food environments like supermarkets and canteens. WWF says the onus should be on businesses and the government to create more sustainable food systems and ensure everyone has access to affordable food that’s good for nature and the climate.

Why Should We Care?

Large-scale farming and food production are big emitters and bad for biodiversity. The food system is responsible for around 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. We can’t hit our climate and nature targets without changing what we eat and how we produce it.

Shifting to a more sustainable diet can deliver ‘gigatonne-scale’ emissions reductions according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

Land usage is also a big part of the problem. In the UK, half of the wheat we grow is fed to livestock like cows and sheep. The IPCC report showed that changing our diets can free up millions of square miles of land around the world. That land could be used to restore nature and biodiversity, and feed more people directly with crops.

Nature-friendly farming grows a wider variety of crops and helps to create healthier, more biodiverse ecosystems by reducing artificial fertilisers and pesticides. It can also cut excess nitrogen, combating climate change and helping to clean up our polluted water, air and soil.

Be Curious

Changing our food system to align with Net Zero is a big job. But there’s a lot we can do as citizens and consumers to help push supermarkets, restaurants, farmers (and more!) in the right direction. It starts with making informed decisions about our own food choices.