Changes to diet ignored in national climate plans

Countries are failing to address dietary change as part of their climate plans, according to research by Friends of the Earth.

Nations agreed to update their plans (also known as national determined contributions, or NDCs) before COP27 to reflect their increased ambition to reach net-zero. However, just 26 out of 197 have done so, and none mentioned dietary change. Production and technology remain the focus for reducing emissions from food.

Writing for the Food Research Collaboration this week, FoE’s head of campaigns Paula Feehan outlined some of the reasons why changes to diets, including eating less meat and dairy and more plants, continue to be ignored at the climate talks.

Fear of ‘nanny-statism’ is chief among them. The UK government, which has updated its NDC, still has no coherent message on meat consumption. It ignored Henry Dimbleby’s Food Strategy recommendation that the UK reduce its meat consumption by 30% over 10 years to reach net-zero by 2050. The government is now facing a legal challenge from campaigners over the paucity of policies it has to tackle meat and dairy consumption.

Feehan, like others, fears the debate about diet has regressed. “There is increased ‘noise’ that dietary change is an individual choice, even though in reality dietary patterns are influenced by food industry and government policy,” she wrote. “The burden of changing diets cannot be left to the individual. Governments can and must take a role in changing diets.”

Tomorrow, November 12th, has been billed as ‘adaption and agriculture day’ at COP27. The focus is expected to be on how to adapt to climate change rather than what needs to be grown and eaten in order to limit greenhouse gas emissions and restore nature.

As of late September 2022, mitigation commitments in NDCs would, if implemented, increase emissions by 10.6% by 2030. A 1.5°C pathway requires a 45% reduction.

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