Chapter 11.2.3 Food policy

Transition to lower carbon diets

The Scottish Government should advocate for a reduction in red meat and dairy consumption.

UK Govt
Scottish Govt
Local Authorities
Emissions reduction
Behaviour change

The Scottish Government should develop sustainable dietary guidelines similar to those currently being developed in many European countries; with a significant commitment to rethink policy initiatives to support delivery of these guidelines.

The Committee on Climate Change said a big part of how Scotland can get to net zero is reduced emissions from agriculture which involves a shift in the nature of Scottish food production away from red meat and dairy. The Drawdown Project ranks moving to plant-based diets as one of the top two most-effective climate solutions, with a potential to reduce global emissions by around 90,000MtCO2 over the next 30 years.268

Current diets, high in meat and dairy produce, are also high carbon. The Climate Change Committee has said that “there should also be a clear plan to move to healthy and low-carbon diets.”269 It has previously recommended a 20% reduction in meat and dairy consumption by 2030 and a 35% reduction for meat by 2050.270 The debate about diets and livestock is usually characterised as being about reducing overall livestock numbers and concentrating on producing high quality meat and dairy produce.

Changes in diet are strongly linked to human health, employment in agriculture and social justice, and all of these considerations must be built into the transition to lower-carbon diets.

For further information:


Progress reducing emissions in Scotland – 2021 Report to Parliament, Climate Change Committee, 2021,


Government’s Food Strategy ‘a missed opportunity’ for the climate, Climate Change Committee, 2022, uk/2022/06/13/governments-food-strategy-a-missed-opportunity-for-the-climate/

Version 1.0: September 2023

The contents of this document will be updated on a regular basis.