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Cut the beef says Climate Change Committee

December 3, 2008 7:00 PM

The new Climate Change Committee headed up by Adair Turner has just published its first stab at advising the UK government on how to reach it target of an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. One of the most striking things in the advice is the recommendation that we need to eat less carbon-intensive meat like beef. Hurrah!

Camden Council's Lib Dem Eco Champion, Cllr Alexis Rowell, tried to persuade his Executive to reduce the amount of meat on menus across the borough for environmental and health reasons, but the Tories blocked the proposal. They trotted out the tired old Thatcherite/New Labour line that it was enough to give people information and choice. But meat, and particularly beef, is right up near the top of carbon-busting choices. And all the research shows that if you have healthy and unhealthy options on school menus, then pupils will overwhelmingly choose the unhealthy options.

The Climate Change Committee report, "Building a Low-carbon Economy - The UK's Contribution to Tackling Climate Change", also said renewable energy eg wind, solar, biomass , wave, tidal etc should produce 30% of the UK's electricity by 2020, and that 40% of new cars would be low emission vehicles by the same date. But the expert group failed to condemn the government's crazy plans to expand aviation, particularly Heathrow airport, which is a missed opportunity given the growing cross-party consensus about the need to abandon the third runway.

We may have missed it but we also didn't see anything on the need to curb the road-building budget, which dwarfs anything we are spending on measures to cut carbon.

The report recommends tough new rules to make coal-fired power stations fit equipment to capture and store their carbon emissions by the early 2020s. This is a disaster. What they should do is rule out new coal plants unless they have carbon capture and storage technology.

If we allow new coal plants to be opened that are not able to store their carbon emissions, if we allow airports and air travel to expand at its current rate, and if we continue to pour money into the roadbuilding budget, then we will never hit our carbon reduction targets.