UK government’s climate change advisers want you to cut back on meat, fly less and cycle to work

Britons should eat the equivalent of one less burger a week, cycle rather than drive, and get a heat pump for their home if the UK is to hit its ambitious Net Zero pledge.

That is the conclusion of the government’s advisers on tackling climate change, who warned current plans will not deliver on legal targets to cut emissions in the coming decades.

The independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) revealed its recommendations in its annual report to Parliament on the progress being made to address Britain’s contribution to global warming.

It is concerned the government is relying too much on technological advances and biomass production to meet carbon reduction targets. 

In its 619 page report, the CCC advises ministers pay more attention to behavioural changes by nudging people towards greener lifestyle choices. 

These include cycling more, flying less and eating less meat so that land can be used to plant trees of biomass.

It also proposed encouraging a 20 per cent shift away from meat by 2030, which would then rise to 35 per cent by 2050. On top of that is the recommendation to drive a 20 per cent shift away from dairy products by the end of the decade.

An average person eats about 604g of meat per week, down from 756g in 2019. They also consume roughly 1,600g of dairy a week.

Cutting meat intake by 20 per cent would be the equivalent of 120g — roughly that of a standard burger patty, chicken Drumstick or two-thirds of a fillet steak.

It could also, in theory, be the equivalent of someone who eats meat every day going completely meat-free at least once per week. 

Making changes: The British public should eat the equivalent of one less burger a week, cycle rather than drive, and get a heat pump for their home if the UK is to hit its ambitious Net Zero pledge. That is the conclusion of a new report by the independent Climate Change Committee. Here are some of the panel’s other indications for lifestyle choices in its latest annual report

ONE IN SIX BRITONS DOUBT HUMAN LINK TO CLIMATE CHANGE

One in six British adults don’t believe that climate change is mainly caused by human activities, a new report suggests.

This is despite scientists around the world  almost unanimously believing this to be the case.

The study was carried out by King’s College London, which based it on a survey of 12,000 adults across six European countries.

Professor Bobby Duffy, director of the Policy Institute at King’s, said the findings of the research were ‘a real concern as it may affect support for action’.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said last year: ‘It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.’

When it comes to flying, the CCC suggests reversing the cut to air passenger duty brought in last year, as well as introducing other taxes and frequent flyer levies to encourage people not to travel by plane so much.

‘The price of flying should be raised to the point that it acts as an effective signal to consumers that aviation has high emissions costs,’ the report states.

Of 50 key areas for action, only eight were given the green light for being clearly on track to deliver the necessary emissions cuts, including electric car sales, wind and solar power, and meat consumption.

Areas judged to be significantly off track include electric van sales, charging points, energy efficiency retrofits, new woodland creation, and peat restoration.

There is also a ‘shocking’ gap in government efforts to ensure homes are better insulated in the face of soaring energy bills, the climate advisers said.  

They singled out energy efficiency to make UK homes less leaky and cheaper to heat, along with a lack of action on farming emissions, as particular problem areas.

A fast, sustained push to improve energy efficiency in homes and switch to electric heating, such as heat pumps, to reduce fossil fuel consumption would help people cope with high energy prices, the panel said.

The average annual energy bill for UK households is around £40 more than it would be if insulation had carried on at rates seen before policy support was removed in 2012, and British homes are among the most heat-leaking in Europe.

Household energy bills are already at a record high of £1,971 and predicted to hit £2,800 in October — more than doubling since last year.

The independent Climate Change Committee revealed its recommendations in its annual report to Parliament on the progress being made to address Britain's contribution to global warming

The independent Climate Change Committee revealed its recommendations in its annual report to Parliament on the progress being made to address Britain’s contribution to global warming 

The government's Net Zero Strategy aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and relies heavily on bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). This process involves burning wood pellets to create electricity, before the CO2 is separated and piped underground

The government’s Net Zero Strategy aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and relies heavily on bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). This process involves burning wood pellets to create electricity, before the CO2 is separated and piped underground

What ARE the Government’s pollution targets? 

Particulate matter (PM or PM2.5)

PM can get into the lungs and blood and be transported around the body, lodging in the heart, brain and other organs.

The UK already meets the 2020 concentration limit of 20ug/m3 but a new target has been set for a 35 per cent reduction in population exposure to PM2.5 by 2040, compared to levels in 2018.

Ammonia (NH3)

Emissions from ammonia have fallen by 13 per cent since 1990. However since 2013, there has been an increase in emissions of ammonia. 

The government aims to reduce emissions of ammonia (from the 2005 baseline) by 16 per cent by 2030. 

Nitrogen oxide (NOx)

Nitrogen oxide emissions are decreasing and have fallen by 72 per cent since 1970 and 27 per cent since 2010.

The government aims to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (from the 2005 baseline) by 73 per cent by 2030.

Sulphur dioxide (SO2)

Emissions of sulphur dioxide are decreasing and have fallen by 97 per cent since 1970.

The government aims to reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide (from 2005 baseline) by 88 per cent by 2030.

Source: Defra

The report calls for the government to consider increased funding for energy efficiency in fuel-poor homes, as well as a widespread publicity campaign for its promised new energy advice service and policies to incentivise home-owners to improve their properties.

The committee also said it supports moving the costs of historical green subsidies off electricity bills and into general taxation to cut energy costs and encourage people to move to electric heat pumps.

But more recent arrangements for paying for renewables are saving consumers money through cheap wind power.

The installation of insulation measures ‘fell off a cliff’ a decade ago, according to the committee’s chief executive, Chris Stark.

He described the situation as a ‘complete tale of woe’, with an industry devastated by the removal of support in 2012 being expected to gear up again and consumers expected to demand energy efficiency without any policy measures to support them.

‘We call this shocking, that’s what it is,’ he said.

‘We absolutely must be doing something about this at scale; making homes better insulated is absolutely a critical factor, especially when we’re experiencing such high energy prices.’

Mr Stark said there are better ways to deal with high energy prices than the package of payments announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who, he said, should be supporting insulation to save on bills.

CCC director of analysis Mike Thompson said: ‘There has never been a better time to insulate your house, with gas prices at the levels that they are, the pressure on imports and energy security.

‘This is the time for the government to be bold and to help people to do what a lot of people want to do anyway,’ he said.

The annual report said UK greenhouse gases are now almost half (47 per cent) their 1990 levels, with emissions rising 4 per cent in 2021 as the economy began to recover from Covid-19 but still 10 per cent below 2019 levels.

Advisers also warned that the public are increasingly concerned about climate change but people are not sure how they can best take action, with greater engagement needed. 

For the first time this year the committee has set out progress against a series of on-the-ground changes that need to be made across society to keep the UK on track to end its contribution to climate change.

CCC chairman Lord Deben said the government should provide people with the information they need in areas such as insulating homes, which he said is not being the ‘nanny state’, and work with local authorities to deliver on energy efficiency.

When it comes to flying, the CCC suggests reversing the cut to air passenger duty brought in last year, as well as introducing other taxes and frequent flyer levies to encourage people not to travel by plane so much

When it comes to flying, the CCC suggests reversing the cut to air passenger duty brought in last year, as well as introducing other taxes and frequent flyer levies to encourage people not to travel by plane so much 

He added: ‘The UK is a champion in setting new climate goals; now we must be world-beaters in delivering them.

‘In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the country is crying out to end its dependence on expensive fossil fuels.

‘I welcome the government’s restated commitment to net zero, but holes must be plugged in its strategy urgently.’

He rated the government nine out of 10 for the targets it has set, but only four out of 10 for delivery of action on climate change.

A spokesperson for the government said: ‘The UK is forging ahead of most other countries with around 40 per cent of our power now coming from cleaner and cheaper renewables. 

‘This is backed up by £6bn of funding to make our homes and buildings more energy efficient, planting up to 30,000 hectares of new trees a year, and more electric cars than ever before on our road. 

‘[We are] decarbonising our cars and vans faster than any other developed country.’ 

THE PARIS AGREEMENT: A GLOBAL ACCORD TO LIMIT TEMPERATURE RISES THROUGH CARBON EMISSION REDUCTION TARGETS

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change.

It hopes to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C (3.6ºF) ‘and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F)’.

It seems the more ambitious goal of restricting global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) may be more important than ever, according to previous research which claims 25 per cent of the world could see a significant increase in drier conditions. 

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change has four main goals with regards to reducing emissions:

1)  A long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels

2) To aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change

3) Governments agreed on the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this will take longer for developing countries

4) To undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science

Source: European Commission