Adopting a healthy, sustainable diet could deliver a 36 per cent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions and a 20 per cent reduction in biodiversity loss compared to the average UK diet – without ditching meat and dairy.
That’s the message in the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) new Eating for Net Zero report, which formulates a diet that doesn’t deviate drastically from current British eating habits, but is much kinder to the planet and costs the same to buy.
“Achieving a healthy, sustainable diet is possible – without everyone having to go vegetarian, vegan, or give up treats,” said Tanya Steele, CEO of WWF-UK.
Some 30 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from food production. Meanwhile, over reliance on meat and intensive farming practices is taking a heavy toll on soil health and biodiversity.
But the WWF says that we can eat our way towards a healthier planet with a few simple dietary changes. This includes 83 per cent more ‘lower-footprint seafood’ (such as mussels and sardines), a 50 per cent boost in beans and pulses, 45 per cent more fruit and veg, and a reduction in meat (69 per cent less), dairy (25 per cent less) and eggs (32 per cent less).
Besides the gains to planetary health, mass adoption of the recommendations would ease the burden on the NHS, which currently spends £6bn on diet-related illness and obesity, while also enabling the shift to nature-positive farming.
Achieving a healthy, sustainable diet is possible – without everyone having to go vegetarian or vegan
Leveraging this shift, the report says, starts with a rethink of government dietary guidelines, combined with committed example-setting through public procurement of quality, sustainable foods for schools, hospitals, care homes and other public institutions.
“Diets are not just a question of personal preference,” said Steele. “Food choices are deeply influenced by what is available, affordable and how it is marketed. These factors are determined by governments and businesses.
“Right now, these are pushing us to consume foods that are harmful to our health and the planet. We need policies that improve the affordability, availability and desirability of healthy, sustainable food, making it the easy choice.”
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