Food with heavy environmental impact should be taxed by 2025 unless food industry acts voluntarily, says alliance
A powerful coalition of the UK’s health professions has called for a climate tax to be imposed on food with a heavy environmental impact by 2025, unless the industry takes voluntary action on the impact of their products.
The group says the climate crisis cannot be solved without action to cut the consumption of food that causes high emissions, such as red meat and dairy products. But it says that more sustainable diets are also healthier and would reduce illness.
The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC) includes 10 Royal Colleges of medicine and nursing, the British Medical Association and the Lancet, representing the doctors, nurses and other professionals entrusted with caring for the country’s health.
The alliance’s new report makes a series of recommendations including a swift end to buy-one-get-one-free offers for food that is bad for health and the environment, and for perishable foods that are often wasted.
It also calls for public information campaigns on diet to include climate messages, for labels on food to reveal its environmental impact, and for the £2bn spent every year on catering in schools, hospitals, care homes and prisons to meet minimum environmental standards.
A YouGov poll of healthcare professionals for UKHACC found two-thirds agreeing that environmentally friendly diets can also improve your health, while 40% had already changed their own eating habits due to environmental concerns.
Food production is responsible for a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and a series of scientific studies have shown that red meat and dairy have far bigger impacts than plant-based food. People in rich nations already eat more meat than is healthy and in the UK only one in three eat the recommended five daily portions of fruit and vegetables.
“We can’t reach our goals without addressing our food system,” said Kristin Bash, who leads the Faculty of Public Health’s food group and was a co-author of the UKHACC report. “The climate crisis isn’t something we should see as far in the future. It’s time to take these issues seriously now.”
Bash said the report was not telling people to become vegans: “It’s just saying increase your consumption of plant protein. It’s a simple message and something that’s widely supported by health organisations around the world.”