The UK government should introduce a supplier-facing carbon levy on food to incentivise more sustainable production methods and product innovation, according to behaviour change experts.
Researchers from The Behavioural Insights Team (formerly the government’s ‘nudge’ unit) said such a levy should be based on the carbon intensity per portion of the food and should focus initially on red meat and dairy.
Policy makers should also look to create a simple system of eco-labels across key product sectors such as food and clothing as part of a blueprint for achieving net-zero.
The new report features a list of recommendations and ideas for UK policymakers and businesses for reaching net-zero across public communications, domestic heat and power, transport, food, consumption and waste.
The UK’s Climate Change Committee estimates that 62% of the necessary emissions reductions in the UK depend on behaviour change. The biggest carbon reductions (53%) come from the adoption of new technologies (electric vehicles, heat pumps, home energy-efficiency improvements), while 9% depend on lifestyle changes including eating less red meat and dairy, more active travel, and less flying and driving.
The report notes that a change in our consumption choices is an essential precondition for wider change, notably the challenge of releasing agricultural land for nature restoration and carbon sequestration which rests in large part on a change in the nation’s diet.
Alongside the recommendations for a carbon levy and eco-labels, the report calls for an update to existing national dietary guidelines to promote healthy and sustainable diets and the mandating of food waste disclosure for large food businesses.
It also suggests businesses could provide low-carbon defaults across different public and private catering settings such as flights, conferences, weddings and school canteens.
On waste, the report recommends the government encourage greater repairability and re-use of appliances and other items, and simplify recycling standards and labels.