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Climate gap report: food

Rob Harrison and Ruth Strange discuss the findings around food from Closing the Climate Gap 2023: An annual report on progress towards sustainable consumer lifestyles in the UK.

Actions taken this decade will be crucial in mitigating the worst impacts of climate breakdown. Yet, according to our Climate Gap research we are not cutting emissions fast enough across any of our key lifestyle areas - including in our diets.

Food and the climate gap

A key finding of our Climate Gap report was that overall, previous slight progress on food appears to have reversed.

Despite the visible rise in plant-based food options in shops and eateries, the reported figures for average dairy consumption per week have risen (see graph), although the latest available data is two years old.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) 2023 Progress report stated that it was ‘too early to say’ if meat consumption reductions were on target.

We are still waiting for an update from WRAP later this year in order to see if food waste has been reducing or not.

Bar chart with dairy consumption each year in grams per person per week. 2019 = 2708; 2020 = 2676; 2021 = 2772; 2030 target is 2165

Not moving fast enough

Food accounts for about 26% of our total consumer emissions.

The 2023 report found that there is still a 13% reduction needed in CO2e emissions needed if we are to meet the Climate Change Committee's 2030 targets.

We call on consumers to not only reduce their own emissions in these areas, but to also consider getting engaged with political campaigns trying to persuade the government and companies to take some of the actions identified too.

Actions for government, companies and consumers

The Climate Gap 2023 Report summarises actions to be taken by government, companies and consumers in order to help meet the 2030 targets.

Food report card 2023

  Meat consumption Dairy consumption Food waste

Actions for government

Use public procurement; rebalance agricultural policy; assess future trade deals. Use public procurement; rebalance agricultural policy. Mandate reporting for companies; funding for food waste prevention.
Actions for companies Better carbon labelling; more plant-based options; more investment in alternatives. Better carbon labelling; more plant-based options; more investment in alternatives. Reduce supply chain waste.
Actions for consumers Reduce meat consumption Reduce dairy consumption Reduce food waste

Access the 2023 report

A summary and PDF of the 2023 report and the other impact areas is available on our campaign page.

The reports include the evidence that sits behind all this information.

At a glance graphs

The 2023 report includes 12 graphs, like the dairy graph above, across the four impact areas of food, heating, transport and consumer goods. These graphs are quick ways to see where progress is taking place, and where the target is going to be very difficult to achieve.

Your feedback

After you have read this report, we’d really appreciate it if you could complete a short survey to help us understand the impact it is having, and improve this in future years.

Climate impact of meat and dairy

By far the biggest way that consumers can reduce the greenhouse gas and land impacts of their food is reducing their consumption of products from ruminant animals (cows, sheep and goats), due to their methane impact and the land impact of grazing.

Read more about the climate impact of different diets in our articles on

Handy advice on climate actions you can take

We are creating series of articles highlighting actions you can take for the climate on the areas of food, heating, transport and consumer goods - see the links below for some food related advice:

Join in

Combined efforts can have greater impact than people on their own. Key food campaigns to support include:

  • Sustain: an alliance of organisations working together for a better food system
  • Feedback: a charity campaigning for mandatory food waste (amongst other things)
  • Vegan Society: campaigns for more plant options and supports people to reduce dairy consumption
  • Animal Rising: non-violent protest action to speed the transition to a plant-based food system

We would like to express gratitude to Ecology Building Society for its sponsorship of the 2023 Climate Gap Report.

Ecology Building Society logo

What is the Climate Gap report?

Ethical Consumer's first Climate Gap report was published in October 2021, to track progress towards sustainable consumer lifestyles in the UK. The report helps identify how consumers, governments and companies can work together to help fix the climate crisis.

The report's aim is to track the gap between our current combined consumption emissions and where they need to be by 2030. A second key aim of the project is to produce a simplified list of key actions for consumers, companies and governments.

The report has four sections on the areas where our lifestyle climate impacts are the biggest: food, housing, transport and consumer goods, covering 75% of combined total consumer emissions. It compares where consumer behaviour is in these areas against 2030 targets from reports issued by the UK Government's own Climate Change Committee (CCC). Read more about whether the CCC's targets themselves are robust enough, in the Key Findings on our campaign page.

We update the report annually, to provide targets for consumers, companies and government each year.