The UK dairy industry is criticising the Sixth Carbon Budget

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The UK’s Sixth Carbon Budget, released by the Climate Change Committee to reach net-zero, is not going down well with the dairy industry.

The UK dairy industry is criticising the Sixth Carbon Budget, released this week, emphasising on dairy’s health aspects over its environmental impact.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) report encourages a move towards healthier diets, with “low-cost, low-regret actions to encourage a 20% shift away from all meat by 2030 rising to 35% by 2050, and 20% shift from dairy products by 2030”.

It also put food waste in the spotlight, which, the Sixth Carbon Budget notes, needs to be reduced by half by 2030. The CCC highlighted that food waste collection would be impacted by a shift in dietary preferences and behaviour to lower meat and dairy consumption.

The Budget has seen a strong reaction from Dairy UK, whose chief executive, Dr Judith Bryans, said: “We are strongly committed to tackling climate change and recognise the important work the Climate Change Committee is doing to this end. However, we are once again extremely disappointed that the role of dairy in nutrition, livelihoods, biodiversity and many more areas has been ignored. Dairy simply cannot only be viewed through the lens of greenhouse gas emissions or land use.”

Compared to plant-based alternatives, dairy isn’t climate-friendly. An Oxford University study revealed that a 200ml glass of cow’s milk emits 0.6kg of carbon dioxide equivalent, spans 1.8 sq metres of land and uses 125.6l of water. In comparison, soy milk amounts to 0.195kg of carbon dioxide equivalent, 0.14 sq metres of land, and 5.6l of water.

For more on that, read our Ultimate Guide to eco-friendly alternatives.

Bryans claimed that dairy products provide vital nutrients to consumers, the vitamin and mineral content of which no other product matches. She said: “Encouraging or enforcing a reduction in dairy consumption could leave many consumers struggling to replace the valuable package of nutrients they get from dairy and paying higher food bills in the process.”

She added: “We surely do not want to see British consumers moving away from naturally nutrient-rich and affordable foods towards taking supplements or to highly fortified and processed foods, and all without understanding fully the unintended consequences of such drastic dietary change.”

The Dairy UK chief executive pointed to the Dairy Roadmap to iterate the industry commitment to climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions: “The UK dairy industry is one of the most sustainable in the world, accounting for only 2.8% of greenhouse gas emissions. We of course recognise that we as an industry have an impact, and over the last ten years we’ve worked hard to achieve a reduction of 24% in greenhouse gas emissions.”

The UK’s Climate Change Act says it must reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. It also outlines that a new Carbon Budget must be set every five years, and the Sixth one needs to be legislated by 2021.

In 2019, the UK became the first major economy to make net-zero law. And in the Sixth Carbon Budget (2033-37), the CCC details the plan for the next three decades, including a first-ever assessment of the resulting changes, and to reach that goal, reducing meat and dairy is key. It’s am ambitious plan that moves its 2050 goal of reducing polluting emissions by 80% forward to 2035.

Anay Mridul
Anay Mridul
Anay is journalism graduate from City, University of London, he was a barista for three years, and never shuts up about coffee. He's passionate about coffee, plant-based milk, cooking, eating, veganism, writing about all that, profiling people, and the Oxford Comma. Originally from India, he went vegan in 2020, after attempting (and failing) Veganuary. He believes being environmentally conscious is a basic responsibility, and veganism is the best thing you can do to battle climate change. He gets lost at Whole Foods sometimes.