The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has called on Ministers to introduce a ‘strong trade policy’ to block high carbon food imports.
The committee, which formally advises the UK Government and devolved administrations, warned the target of net zero emissions by 2050 would not be met if domestically-produced meat was replaced by imports with higher carbon footprints from other countries across the globe.
But it also recommended the British public slash beef, lamb and dairy consumption by 20 per cent, and suggested one-fifth of agricultural land would need to be taken out of production in order to tackle climate change.
The calls were made in a new report, Land Use: Policies for a Net Zero UK, which is the committee’s first attempt to advise on agricultural policy.
Chris Stark, CCC chief executive, said: “British beef, and lamb to a lesser extent, has some of the lowest greenhouse gas emissions of meat reared anywhere in the world.
“To meet the net zero goal, we do need emissions from UK livestock overall to fall, but it is very important we do not replace that with importation of higher greenhouse gas intensity meat from abroad.
“That is a challenge. We will need a strong trade policy to make that happen.”
As part of its plan to shift diets away from meat and dairy, the committee recommended Government promotes research and development into ‘novel protein alternatives’, as well as introducing stronger labelling.
It also called for stronger options, such as a tax or regulation, to be considered in the mid-2020s if softer measures ‘prove insufficient’.
Other recommendations in the report include introducing a feed-in tariff or trading scheme for tree planting, funded by a levy on high-emitting industries such as aviation; incentivising the growth of bioenergy crops with a high carbon price; regulating to move towards low carbon farming; restoring peatlands and cutting food waste.