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Going vegan will help UK reach climate targets, says minister

Bold steps will be needed to help the UK reach its commitment, which the prime minister described as the most ambitious in the world
Kwasi Kwarteng official portrait. Image credit: Chris McAndrew

Kwasi Kwarteng, the business, energy and industrial strategy secretary, has said that more people adopting lifestyle changes such as going vegan will help drive progress towards the UK’s climate goals

Earlier this week, the Government announced it would set tougher climate targets and attempt to slash carbon emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 when compared to 1990 levels. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this was the most ambitious commitment in the world. 

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Talking today (April 22) on Times Radio, Kwarteng was asked about a column in The Times newspaper by former foreign secretary William Hague.

Hague wrote the UK faced a decade of “dramatic and sometimes depressing politics” where people could be told to eat less meat and pay more taxes to save the planet. 

“I wonder, if we are to tackle climate change, do we need to be a bit more honest about the changes that are coming?” asked breakfast show host Aasmah Mir. 

“This isn’t just about boilers and electric cars, it’s possibly about tax rises too, which you may be planning”. 

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Side-stepping the issue of taxes, Kwarteng replied: “I actually see a massive economic opportunity from decarbonisation.” 

He then added: “There are challenges in terms of people changing their lifestyle, but that’s happening already without government legislation. 

“The number of people who are vegans, who are reducing their meat intake, is going up all the time.

“I think there’s a lot of societal change that will actually help us and drive the progress to 2035 when hopefully we will hit the 78 per cent reduction targets.” 

This week, new research from the WWF found there was a 25 per cent increase in people adopting plant-based diets between February 2019 and October 2020.

But Dr Chris West, one of the researchers based at the Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York, said both individuals and governments would need to take action to bring down carbon emissions. 

“Meeting our climate targets will require a combination of small and big changes, such as maintaining a reduction in international travel, which is needed to bring down personal footprints,” said West. 

“Changing consumer behaviours are a very important component of moving towards a low-carbon future, but these must also be complemented by a rapid transition towards renewable energy and a circular economy.”