Eating for 2 degrees: Dietary changes can help UK hit Paris Agreement, says WWF

A new report from WWF has suggested that farmers, retailers and the UK Government should promote the consumption of fruit and vegetables to deliver a 30% emissions reduction and place the UK on the pathway to limit global warming to well below 2°C.

WWF’s “Eating for 2 degrees” report was released on Monday (26 June), and calls on the UK Government and the Climate Change Committee (CCC) to work towards setting a goal to reduce emission from the food sector. Retailers and farmers should also collaborate to increase the consumption of fruit and vegetables amongst the public through accelerated production and new healthy eating campaigns, WWF suggests.

“What we eat and how it’s produced has consequences for the whole planet,” WWF UK’s food policy manager Duncan Williamson said. “By changing our diet and improving production efficiency in the food system, we can make a major contribution to the impact what we eat has on our environment.

“Now that the Paris Agreement is in force we have binding commitments to reduce carbon emissions, and changes to what and how much we eat as well as how much we waste, will need to be part of the solution. This report illustrates what it means for our plate to meet our Paris climate commitments and keep the increase in global temperature below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels.”

The new report acts as an update to the Livewell Plates report from 2011. The updated publication creates dietary “plates” of age ranges, and has this year included brackets for adolescents (10-17), the elderly (65-85) and vegans.

Each plate outlines the minimal dietary changes need for to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, with an emphasis on eating more plants, wasting less food, moderating meat consumption, buying certified standards and eating less salt and sugar.

The report notes that food and agriculture account for 20% of global emissions. This figure rises to 30% once land-use is factored in, while 70% of fresh water is used in agricultural irrigation. Specifically, the report calls for a reduction in the consumption of red or process meat in favour of vegetable protein and soy, which could reduce emissions by 30% by 2030.

The report calls on the UK Government to implement healthy eating advice that integrates sustainability into diets and develop new food policies with centralised responsibility for implementation.

Commenting on the report’s launch, Andrew Stephen, chief executive of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), said: “WWF’s original Livewell Plate was ahead of the game when it was published in 2011. It continues to provide simple, straightforward dietary guidance. Being responsible for half of the UK’s spending on food, restaurants and the wider hospitality sector have the power to make a hugely positive impact on the health of the nation and the environment.

“There are terrific examples from high street to high end, of businesses innovating and responding to the public’s growing appetite for more plant-based dishes. With half of us now identifying as flexitarian, and that number expected to rise by a further 10% this year, there’s never been a better time to offer diners a more varied menu. Throughout August, the SRA will be running its own campaign calling on the whole industry to inspire diners with more plant-based dishes and sharing inspiring examples from those leading the way.”

Feed the new world

WWF UK has previously teamed up with global catering and facilities firm Sodexo to launch a range of sustainable meals to improve public health and reduce the environmental impact of food production. The ‘Green & Lean’ meals – based on wholegrains, vegetables and a reduction of fat, sugar and salt – launched across more than 40 independent schools in England in January 2017.

The roll-out follows a successful pilot in eight schools in November 2015 in which almost 20,000 meals, containing more than a tonne of extra vegetables, were served to pupils.

Unilever, considered a leader in the sustainable business movement, recently launched its agenda that commits to creating “food that tastes good, does good and doesn’t cost the earth”.

Swedish multinational home appliance manufacturer Electrolux has also moved to address the issue. The Electrolux Food Foundation uses food-related and employee engagement initiatives across the globe to tackle hunger, food waste and responsible consumption challenges.

Matt Mace

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