The Cabinet minister suggested he would not back a new ‘meat tax’ but revealed he had become a vegetarian
Climate change chief Alok Sharma signalled a new ‘meat tax’ was off the table, as he said eating less of it should be a “personal choice”.
The COP26 President told the BBC he had chosen to give up meat because his daughter had challenged him to do more to save the environment.
Meat and food production are one of the biggest contributors to global warming, according to climate experts, and campaigners have been calling on the Government’s net zero carbon strategy to do more to push Brits to switch to plant-based foods.
Environment Secretary George Eustice has indicated that he would back a levy on high carbon food, such as meat and dairy.
But as world leaders gather for the start of the global climate summit in Glasgow, Mr Sharma poured cold water on the idea of new taxes, telling the BBC: “I have been very clear that, on a personal level, I am someone who very much believes in carrot rather than stick, trying to encourage people to move in the right direction.”
Pressed on whether he thought people should be eating less meat to reduce the impact on the climate, Mr Sharma replied: “That’s a personal choice.
“What we need to make sure as a Government is that we are incentivising people to make decisions in the same way that we have grants to support people to buy ultra-low emission vehicles, you’ve got the boiler money that has now been announced in terms of replacing boilers with heat pumps.
“That, I think, is the way you help people and support them to make those decisions.”
But the dad-of-two went on to say he personally had switched to become a vegetarian due to pressure from his his daughter.
He said: “The reason I gave up meat is because my younger daughter, who went vegetarian some years ago and is very focused on environmental issues, basically said to me when I got this role, ‘What am I going to do for the environment?”
Last month, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said people would have to eat less meat and fly less often for the UK to reach its net zero targets.
He said: “There will be a move away from the extent of meat eating we’ve seen in the past, and I think we will all need to think about our flying habits.
“But of course, coupled to that, there’s also technological advances, so as options for green transport become real that will change again.
“One of the climate challenge is it’s a series of small things from all of us that turn into a big change.
“Those little things that appear like they’re not very much are important when they are aggregated across many many millions of people.”
Climate activist Greta Thunberg was mobbed by media and fans when she arrived ahead of the summit yesterday.
In an interview with the BBC, she said it is “possible in theory” to reach an agreement to keep global warming below 1.5C.
Asked if she think it will happen, she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: “I don’t know. It can. It’s possible in theory.
“It’s up to us if we want that to happen.”