Celebrities React To ‘Amazing’ Vegan Television Advert

‘It’s fun, funny and non-judgmental, yet is guaranteed to make people question how comfortable they truly are with their food choices’
Actor and animal advocate Evanna Lynch reacts to the ad (Photo: Supplied to PBN)

Actor and animal advocate Evanna Lynch reacts to the ad (Photo: Supplied to PBN)

A group of celebrities react to the UK’s first vegan television advert in this video created by Veganuary and shared exclusively with Plant Based News.

Veganuary – a global organization that encourages people to try vegan in January and beyond – created the advert, which will be the first of its kind to air on mainstream TV in the UK, Germany and the US between Christmas and New Year.

This reaction video – released before the advert starts screening on December 29 – features famous vegan faces including Evanna Lynch, Carl Donnelly, and Derek Sarno among others.

Celebrities React To Vegan Advert
Celebrities including ‘Harry Potter’ star Evanna Lynch react to the first vegan advert to be shown on UK television.
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Vegan advert

Veganuary produced the advert – which it describes as ‘high-quality, attention-grabbing and thought-provoking’ in collaboration with Kolle Rebbe ad agency and vegan film producer Fabian Weigt.

The charity says: “In true Veganuary style it’s fun, funny and non-judgmental, yet is guaranteed to make people question how comfortable they truly are with their food choices.”

It features an international cast to ‘demonstrate how this issue goes to the very heart of human nature’.

The power of TV

“We all know the power of TV advertising to capture people’s attention and influence their behavior, so getting the first pro-vegan ad on TV will be a major milestone for our movement,” Toni Vernelli, Head of Communications at Veganuary, said.

She added that getting the ‘bold, fresh, and compelling ad in front of millions of people’ could ‘inspire them to try vegan this January and beyond’.

You can find out more about Veganuary – including how to sign up for the month-long pledge – here

Wildcats ‘to return to England’ after long absence



Scottish wildcats were bred at a special facility in Devon over the summer.

It is believed they became extinct in England when one was shot in the North in 1849.

They last record of wildcats in southern England was in the 16th Century, said the Devon Wildlife Trust.

If the breeding project continues successfully they could be returned to the English countryside.

Queen will no longer wear clothes with real fur, Her Majesty’s dresser reveals

The Queen will no longer be wearing fur in any of her new garments
The Queen will no longer be wearing fur in any of her new garments CREDIT: POOL/TIM GRAHAM PICTURE LIBRARY

She has long enjoyed wrapping up in a long fur coat, with a particular favourite that has been on rotation for decades.

But Buckingham Palace has signalled that the Queen is finally ready to move with the times, acknowledging that attitudes towards fur have shifted.

Any new garments made for the monarch from now on, including coats, hats and ceremonial robes requiring fur, will be made with the fake variety.

Angela Kelly, the Queen’s long time dressmaker and confidante, reveals in her new memoir: “If Her Majesty is due to attend an engagement in particularly cold weather, from 2019 onwards fake fur will be used to make sure she stays warm”.

In the book, The Other Side Of The Coin: The Queen, The Dresser And The Wardrobe, Ms Kelly notes that a coat worn by the Queen in Slovakia in 2008 has since been altered, the mink trim replaced with fake fur.

A Buckingham Palace spokesperson confirmed: “As new outfits are designed for the Queen, any fur used will be fake.”

However, sources confirmed that the change in direction will only concern new garments.

The Queen in a fur-trimmed robe at her coronation
The Queen in a fur-trimmed robe at her coronation CREDIT: DEUTSCH COLLECTION/GETTY

The monarch will continue to wear the existing pieces in her wardrobe made with fur, from coats and hats to ceremonial robes.

The Queen has repeatedly been criticised by animal rights charities for continuing to wear fur, despite multiple high-fashion houses abandoning use of the “cruel” product.

Her new approach was welcomed by activists.

Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International said: “We are thrilled that Her Majesty has officially gone fur-free.

“Queen Elizabeth’s decision to ‘go faux’ is the perfect reflection of the mood of the British public, the vast majority of whom detest cruel fur, and want nothing to do with it.

“Our Head of State going fur-free sends a powerful message that fur is firmly out of fashion and does not belong with Brand Britain.

“The UK banned fur farming almost two decades ago because it was deemed too cruel, now we must finish the job and ban fur sales too.

The Queen in her much-worn fur coat in 1969
The Queen in her much-worn fur coat in 1969 CREDIT:  EVENING STANDARD/GETTY/ HULTON ROYALS COLLECTION

“We are calling on the British Government to follow Her Majesty’s example and make the UK the first country in the world to ban the sale of animal fur.”

The Duchess of Cambridge wears fur, but ensures it comes from ethical sources.

One of her favourite items, in which she has been seen multiple times, is a brown hat made from the pelts of alpacas which died of natural causes.

She is such a fan of the Fairtrade brand Peruvian Connection that she has many of their alpaca hats in different colours.

The UK was the first country in the world to ban fur farming on ethical grounds, although it still allows animal fur to be imported from other countries including Finland, Poland and China.

Many fashion houses have banned real fur after protests from animal rights organisations, including Gucci,  Calvin Klein, Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, Tommy Hilfiger, Versace, Armarni and Hugo Boss.

However, the British Fur Trade Association (BFTA) has warned against banning the item, arguing that it is sustainable, plastic-free and lasts a long time.

A BFTA spokesperson said: “The Royal Family have been at forefront of championing animal welfare and conservation efforts across the globe for many years something that aligns fully with responsibly sourced fur.

“Natural fur is one of the most sustainable and long lasting natural products available, so despite what animal rights groups would claim, we are sure that the Royal Family will continue wear responsibly sourced fur as many on the high street continue to do.”

Brian May: Queen won’t play Glastonbury without badger cull apology

Guitarist rules out 50th anniversary headline slot because of rift with festival founder

 Queen guitarist Brian May called badger culling a ‘tragedy and unnecessary crime’ against UK’s wildlife.
 Queen guitarist Brian May called badger culling a ‘tragedy and unnecessary crime’ against UK’s wildlife. Photograph: Ken McKay/ITV/ReX/Shutterstock

Brian May has said Queen will not play Glastonbury next year after clashing with the festival’s founder over the controversial badger cull.

The 72-year-old guitarist and animal rights campaigner rubbished claims that his band had been booked to headline Glastonbury’s 50th anniversary event next year.

Founder Michael Eavis, 84, who is also a dairy farmer, has called May a “danger to farming” and criticised him for his opposition to the badger cull, which is aimed at preventing the spread of bovine TB.

Last year, Eavis’s support for the cull prompted the Downton Abbey actor Peter Egan to call on music fans to boycott Glastonbury.

Speaking on BBC Radio 2 on Friday, May said Queen, who are touring with American Idol’s Adam Lambert providing the vocals, would not perform at Glastonbury in 2020 unless “things changed radically”.

“No, we won’t [perform], and there are lots of reasons for that. One is that Michael Eavis has frequently insulted me and I don’t really particularly enjoy that,” he said.

“What bothers me more is that he is in favour of the badger cull, which I regard as a tragedy and unnecessary crime against wildlife.

May is also the co-founder of the Save Me animal welfare organisation, which campaigns against fox hunting and badger culling.

He started the body in 2010 alongside the environmental campaigner Anne Brummer, and named it after Queen’s 1980 hit.

May appeared on Zoe Ball’s show alongside the singer-songwriter James Blunt and Strictly Come Dancing head judge Shirley Ballas. Blunt did not say whether he would perform at Glastonbury’s 50th anniversary.

He said: “I’m off on my tour from February around the UK. I will be doing some summer festivals. Glastonbury has always been my favourite gig to play. I’ve played on the Pyramid Stage a couple of times and it’s an amazing place, absolutely.”

Diana Ross, who made her name in The Supremes, has already been announced as the performer for next year’s Sunday afternoon Legends slot, which last year was filled by Kylie Minogue.

Representatives of Glastonbury have been contacted for comment.

Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton to open plant-based burger chain, joining other celebs in fake meat craze

Who will win the plant-based fast-food war?

Morningstar Consumer equity strategist RJ Hottovy and A.T. Kearney partner Greg Portell discussed Beyond Meat and the popularity of the meat alternative at fast-food restaurants.

Count Formula 1 racecar driver Lewis Hamilton among those who are getting into the meatless, plant-based burger businessOpens a New Window. following the growing popularity of Burger King’s Impossible Whopper, which has captured consumer’s attention and taken the fast food marketOpens a New Window. by storm.

Hamilton, 34, along with Italian night club promoter and entrepreneur Tommaso Chiabra and investor Ryan Bishti, are opening up Neat Burger just off of London’s Regent Street on Monday, with several more locations in Britain to follow.

They are currently seeking £15 million to fund expansions into locations at Covent Garden and Kings Cross.

“We are not aiming for vegans or a plant-based niche, we are aiming to convert meat eaters,” Bishti said in a statement. “We are part of a movement happening when you look at the world today in the Amazon with deforestation for crops and agri-farming. This is a perfect way to make a change.”

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The plant-based burger craze went viral when Burger King introduced its “Impossible Whopper” on Aug. 8, with upwards of 45 of the meat-free burgers being sold at Burger King locations a day, according to analyst Andrew Charles.

Seeking to capitalize on the concept’s growing popularity amongst consumers, Hamilton and company are also planning a U.S. location to launch sometime next year, with the intention of opening 14 more Neat Burger locations around Europe throughout the next two years.

Hamilton, a native of the U.K. and the richest sportsman in the entire country with a net worth of £187 million, became a vegetarian back in 2017. The five-time Formula 1 World Champion now holds a sizeable stake in the company.

The vegan and vegetarian food market has exploded over the years, with the amount of vegans in the U.K. climbing from 150,000 in 2014 to over 600,000 in 2018, the Vegan Society reports.


Hamilton is hardly the only sports figure or celebrity to get into the plant-based burger game, as Jay-Z, Trevor Noah, Serena Williams and Katy Perry are investing in Impossible Foods while the market for meatless burgers continues to grow worldwide.

Burger King has led the recent market expansion of plant-based burgers, and the payoff has been hard to ignore for competitors, with the Impossible Whopper predicted to contribute 6% to same-store sales growth at U.S. Burger Kings this quarter, according to the market research and investment firm Cowen.

“Our 6% same-store sales estimate for 3Q implies instances of one-time consumer trial for Impossible Whopper is sustained, and arguably offset, by awareness that continues to grow with Burger King using TV advertising to promote the innovation,” Charles said in a statement released last Thursday.

Officials hunt for suspected pigeon killer after 40 found dead in Somerset

AT RISK: The dead birds showed no obvious injuries or signs of disease, leading to suspicions there was a pigeon poisoner on the loose

AT RISK: The dead birds showed no obvious injuries or signs of disease, leading to suspicions there was a pigeon poisoner on the loose

OFFICIALS in Somerset are hunting a suspected bird poisoner after more than 40 pigeons were killed – including some that fell out of the sky dead.

Investigators including police and the RSPCA are looking into a spate of dead pigeons in Wells and say it is possible they were poisoned.

The birds started appearing in the High Street and beyond at the end of July – on roads, pavements and in people’s gardens.

The birds showed no obvious injuries or signs of disease, leading to suspicions there was a pigeon poisoner in the city.

As many as 40 dead birds have been reported.

One woman found three in her garden and there there was even a report of one falling out of the sky and landing on a woman carrying a coffee.

It was suggested the birds might have been suffering from “pigeon canker”, a disease prevalent during the breeding season.

But autopsy carried out voluntarily vets proved ‘inconclusive’.

Wells City Councillor Celia Wride said: “I must say poisoning was my immediate reaction at the time.

“If this is a case of somebody putting down some killer feed for them we need to find out and do something about it. This is not the way to go about things.”

The matter has been referred to the police who passed it on to Natural England, the Government quango that advises the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on conservation and wildlife.

Natural England passed the matter onto the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which has responsibility through the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme.

It is an offence to injure or kill a wild bird under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, except under licence, and offenders can face an unlimited fine and/or six months imprisonment.

Tests for bird flu and West Nile Virus carried out by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) proved negative.

A spokesman for the HSE said: “While HSE are unable to confirm the range of tests carried out by APHA as part of this post-mortem, the report provided did not state a view that disease was responsible for the pigeons’ deaths.”

Further analysis of tissue samples is currently being carried out by Fera Science Limited to determine if pesticides were used. This can take up to eight weeks.

If the toxicological report does indicate pesticide use, this information will be considered along with the field investigation report to try to identify whether the exposure took place from an approved use or not.

If abuse is suspected, then the information will be referred back to the police who are responsible for catching the pigeon poisoner.

A spokesperson for the RSPCA said: “We are not sure what has happened, but we believe they may have been poisoned.

“The pigeons were taken to a vet by a member of the public and post mortems carried out.”

As well as being a deliberate act of poisoning the spokesperson said any potential source could also include poisonous substances not being safely stowed away.

Anyone with information that might help with the investigations is asked to call the RSPCA on 0300 123 8018 in confidence.

Trophy-hunting firms banned from gun show after protests (UK)

Trophy-hunting businesses targeting big-game hunters in Britain have been banned from a shooting show after public objections. The NEC in Birmingham said that it would no longer be welcoming safari operators selling hunting trips for sport at the Great British Shooting Show in February.

Campaigners had gathered 30,000 signatures demanding that the venue revoke admission for ten safari operators that wanted to market their tours to shoot lions, elephants and other big game in Africa. The announcement by the NEC yesterday came after organisers had earlier defended the safari operators’ appearance at the show as “controversial”.

The venue, which also hosts Crufts, said in a tweet yesterday that it had listened to its customers’ concerns “and have acted”.

“Taking these concerns and the safety of staff and visitors into consideration, we will be removing exhibitors that practise safari hunting from the show,” it said.

Among the exhibitors that had bought stands at the show were Umlilo Safaris, from South Africa, which offers packages including lion trophy hunts “in fenced areas” — a practice known as canned hunting because there is no way the trapped animals can avoid their fate. Another operator, Legelela Safaris, offers giraffe hunts for £2,400 and baboons for £160.

The safari firms had been expected to capitalise on an increase in interest from British big-game hunters, documented in a report by the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting. The report, based on data from Cites, the global wildlife trade regulator, tracks a sharp rise in souvenir animal trophies imported into Britain in recent years.

Last night the veteran explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes welcomed the NEC’s decision as “a small but positive first step”.

“The idea that animals may be killed, not in self-defence or for food but purely for entertainment, must surely be challenged,” he told The Times. Last week Sir Ranulph appeared at a reception in parliament calling for a ban on the import of trophies from endangered animals to Britain.

From 2004 to 2014 about 2,500 such trophies were brought home by British hunters. The UK is among the top 12 nations taking part in such hunting trips, along with the United States, Russia and Germany, according to Cites data.

Many of the lions being imported into Britain come from hunting farms in South Africa, which Sir Ranulph described as a “hideous trade”. The country has 3,000 lions in the wild, compared with up to 8,000 born in captivity for commercial purposes. Canned hunting is legal in South Africa. Supporters argue that it helps conservation efforts by giving greater value to preserving animals in the wild, as well as bringing revenue to rural areas.

Scientists consider captive-bred lions to have little to no conservation value.


What would life be like in a zero-carbon country?

London (CNN)Drastic restrictions on almost every aspect of people’s lives, from the cars they drive, the way they heat their homes, to the fridges they buy — even the food stored in them. That is the reality of what awaits us in 2050 if a UK government pledge to cut greenhouse emissions to “net zero” is to be met.

If it can do it, the country will become the world’s first major economy to stop contributing to climate change.
But the goal is extremely ambitious — the roadblocks massive.
Net zero means the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere is no more than the amount taken out.
By setting the target, the government is doing what it promised to do. Under the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, the UK and almost 200 other countries pledged to work together to keep global warming in check.
The agreement seeks to keep temperatures to 1.5 degree or at the very least to “well below 2 degrees” above pre-industrial levels.
Cutting emissions is a non-negotiable part of that plan. To keep the warming under 1.5 degrees, global carbon emissions need to reach net zero by 2050. For the “well below 2 degrees” scenario, the deadline moves back to 2070.
That puts the UK at the more ambitious end of the range — and under pressure to deliver concrete policies very, very soon.
The “net zero” target means the country must slash domestic emissions as much as it can. A report by the Committee on Climate Change, the advisory body that recommended the target, gives a glimpse of what that future will look like.
Petrol and diesel vehicles will need to be phased out and replaced by electric or hydrogen powered ones by 2035. Consumption of beef, lamb and dairy must be cut by 20% by 2050. No houses built after 2025 will be connected to the gas grid. The owners of older buildings will need to switch their heating system to a low carbon one by around 2035.
There are issues with the plan. Some sectors are more difficult, or even impossible, to rid of emissions. Agriculture is one example.
“The methane created by livestock is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide … so we will have to reduce meat consumption, but it’s unlikely that we will reduce livestock to zero,” said Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, which is part of London School of Economics.
Aviation and shipping are other sectors where low-carbon alternatives don’t yet exist. “They are quite high carbon sectors, they are rapidly growing, and the decarbonization pathway is more uncertain for them,” said Barny Evans, renewable energy expert at WSP, a sustainability consultancy.
UK's emission reduction targets are among the most ambitious in the world.

Planting trees is part of the plan

Emissions that can’t be cut, like the ones created by belching animals, must be offset for the country to reach the net zero target. Trees take carbon out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis, so planting more of them is one way to do this.
But growing more trees is not always practical. Britain is a small island and space is limited, so the government wants the option of paying other countries to plant trees instead.
Groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are sounding the alarm about that idea. They worry that being able to pay someone else to act could undermine UK’s domestic efforts.
“This type of offsetting has a history of failure and is not, according the government’s [own] climate advisers, cost efficient,” said Doug Parr, the chief scientist at Greenpeace UK.
Another way to offset emissions is by storing greenhouse gases underground or under the sea. But scientists are still figuring out how exactly to do that in a cost-effective and safe way.

Price tag for survival: £1 trillion

Reaching net zero will cost about £1 trillion ($1.3 trillion), a price that for some, is simply too much. One vocal critic is Danish political scientist Bjorn Lomborg, who called the net zero policy “pointless” because the UK is only responsible for around 1% of global emissions. He argues the cost of the plan will far exceed its benefits, and advocates for more investment into research and development instead.
But for Ward, and an overwhelming majority of climate scientists and climate economists, the numbers do add up.
“The only reason why people think that cleaner living is more expensive is because they are forgetting about the hidden costs of our current reliance on fossil fuels,” Ward said.
“People are paying for the impacts of climate change through increased risks of coastal flooding, increased risk of land flooding, increased risk of droughts, increased risk of heatwaves,” he added.
The investments required to get to net zero will be around 1% to 2% of GDP each year, according to the Climate Change Committee. But dealing with the consequences of unchecked warming — rising sea levels, for example — would be way more expensive, it said.

Too little too late?

There are also those who argue the UK and other countries should move much faster. Extinction Rebellion, which recently staged major protests in central London and pushed the UK parliament to declare a climate emergency, wants the net zero target to be set for 2025.
Swedish schoolgirl and climate activist Greta Thunberg has been striking outside the Swedish Parliament every Friday precisely because she believes the Swedes, with their target of net zero by 2045, should move faster. She is also questioning the way reductions are calculated.
While the urgency is undeniable, the Climate Change Committee and other experts say a quicker action could hurt the economy — and the people.
“I hope we can get to net zero earlier and I hope the Extinction Rebellion will continue to push for that, but we’ve got to do this whilst improving the quality of people’s lives,” Ward said.
“We have more than 20 million homes in the UK that have gas central heating … if you were to stop that now, rip up their gas central heating without knowing what you are going to replace it with, you will kill people. Because there will be people who will freeze to death,” he added.
“There is a socio-economic and politic dimension to this. We need to make sure we all benefit,” Evans added.

What government?

Experts mostly welcomed the plan announced by Theresa May. But they were quick to point out that a sweeping announcement by an outgoing Prime Minister who has failed to deliver on her own promise to take the UK out of the European Union, and a complete transformation of one of the world’s biggest economies are two quite different things.
Especially when the country is struggling to meet even its existing target of 80% reduction by 2050.
“The government has to recognize it needs to do more … and whoever is prime minister must bring forward new policies that will strengthen the emission reductions, otherwise we won’t get there,” Ward said.
Brexit is another major roadblock on the way to net zero. Apart from consuming the energy of government and paralyzing the parliament, Brexit could also cause a massive hit to the British economy.
Energy transition is a key part of the plan.

Most economists expect the UK to slump into recession if it crashes out of the EU without a deal. The decarbonization plan will only work if companies are willing to invest in innovation, and a struggling economy isn’t the best environment to attract investors.
But the public, at least in Britain, is becoming more aware of climate change — and the potentially damning consequences of failing to act on it.
According to opinion polls by YouGov, the number of Brits who think the climate is among the top three most pressing issues the country is facing has been growing steadily. The trend was noticeable in recent European and local elections in which Green parties posted big gains.
“The UK has not suffered, in the same way as the United States, from any major party denying the science … it’s not a question of whether we should act, it’s about the best way in which to act,” Ward said.

What will it take for the UK to reach net zero emissions?


We will have to change almost everything, from our homes to our meals

Whitelees windfarm on Eaglesham Moor in East Renfrewshire.
 Whitelees windfarm in East Renfrewshire. Onshore wind is now cheap form but there are few new projects.
Photograph: Graham Hamilton/Epicscotland

The net zero carbon target will require sweeping changes to almost every aspect of British life, affecting our homes, food and the way we get around, as well as jobs and businesses across the board. Ministers hope there will be health benefits and improvements to the natural environment along the way, as well as helping to stave off the global climate emergency.

On some of the key areas where rapid change is needed, however, the signals so far have been mixed.


The UK must wean itself off gas.
 The UK must wean itself off gas. Photograph: Alamy

Phasing out coal use and bringing more renewable energy on stream are the key planks of the government’s strategy. Gas has become an increasingly important source of fuel in the last three decades, particularly for domestic heating, but to reach net zero it will have to be phased out too.

Support for renewable energy has been reduced and in some cases scrapped by the government. Onshore wind is now one of the cheapest forms of energy, but the withdrawal of subsidies and stricter planning rules have resulted in a dearth of new projects, though offshore wind is continuing to make progress.

The number of new solar installations plunged by 94% in April, according to Labour, after the government’s withdrawal of support. Chris Hewett, the chief executive of the Solar Trade Association, says: “Solar and wind are now the lowest cost forms of power generation in the UK, yet there is no route to market and government is continuing to subsidise the fossil fuels it is aiming to phase out.”

The number of jobs in renewable energy in the UK fell by about a third, from 36,000 in 2014 to 25,000 in 2017, according to the union Prospect.

Carbon capture and storage will be needed if we are to continue to use any fossil fuels. A long-running £1bn competition to build the first large-scale demonstration project for the technology was scrapped by George Osborne, but the government says that smaller projects not requiring taxpayer assistance could start to develop.

Controversially for some, the Committee on Climate Change says fracking is compatible with a net-zero target – but only if the gas produced displaces gas which would otherwise have been imported.


The government has slashed support for electric vehicles.
 The government has slashed support for electric vehicles. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

There are only about 210,000 electric vehicles in the UKAbout 1% of households use an all-electric car and about 2% hybrids, so tens of millions of cars will have to be replaced. Public transport, walking, cycling and ways of working that avoid travel will also be part of the solution.

Darren Shirley, the chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, says: “In the coming weeks the government should commit to restarting the programme of rail electrification, outlining further incentives to rapidly grow the market in electric vehicles in the UK, and start work on publishing a national strategy for buses with investment to grow the network and green the bus fleet to be published by 2020.”

The government has pledged to phase out diesel and petrol cars by 2040, but that target should be brought forward to 2030, according to the CCC.

The government has slashed support for electric vehicles, resulting in slower take-up. A lack of charging points is also hitting demand. There are about 8,500, but they are not spread evenly across the country, and some towns have few or none.

The CCC notes that the number of flights we take can continue to grow at least in the short term provided emissions come down in other areas, but campaigners say the decision to allow Heathrow’s expansion will blow away any chance of reducing the UK’s overall transport emissions.


Measures to insulate the existing housing stock were scrapped by the government.
 Measures to insulate the existing housing stock were scrapped by the government. Photograph: Newscast/UIG via Getty Images

All newly built homes – of which the UK needs a record number to solve the housing crisis – were meant to be zero emissions from 2016 under plans from the Labour government in 2006. Those plans were scrapped in 2015 on cost grounds, and now there are few requirements for new-build houses to incorporate energy-saving features or renewable generation.

Government policy is key to making the built environment, which accounts for roughly 40% of the UK’s carbon footprint, more climate friendly, says Juliet Barfield, an architect at Marks Barfield. “The government must regulate if we want to bring down emissions.”

Repurposing and refurbishing existing buildings is nearly always preferable to demolishing and rebuilding, unless the existing construction is dangerous or of such poor quality it cannot be remedied. Concrete is one of the most commonly used construction materials, but associated emissions are sky-high. If the global concrete industry were a country, it would be the world’s third biggest emitter. Alternative materials from timber to wool are not widely used, and while innovators are working on ways to bring down emissions from concrete – using additives from coffee grounds to beetroot, for instance – it remains a significant source of carbon.

When new buildings are needed, a long-term vision – at least 50 years, for the lifetime of a building – and resisting cost-cutting temptations are also important. Barfield notes that high ceilings make buildings more liveable and easier to adapt in future, as well as having benefits in ventilation and light that help in designing ways to reduce energy use. BMany architects, however, come under pressure to reduce ceiling height to squeeze in more rooms, which limits the building’s future potential.

Less than 1% of Britain’s housing stock each year is newly built, and old homes tend to be leaky, draughty, costly to heat and inefficient. The government scrapped measures, such as the “green deal” policy, to insulate existing housing stock. Cash-strapped local authorities lack the resources to offer the insulation needed, even though it would save residents money and improve their health. The CCC recommends turning down heating to 19C in winter, but that may be of little comfort to people in unsuitable and uninsulated homes.


It is not clear what will replace the emissions trading scheme that covers heavy industry after Brexit.
 It is not clear what will replace the emissions trading scheme that covers heavy industry after Brexit. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

Heavy industries such as steel and chemicals currently come under the EU’s emissions trading scheme. Companies are awarded a certain number of allowances to emit carbon dioxide, some free and some paid for, and the most efficient can sell any spares to laggards, who are supposed to be spurred by the additional cost to mend their ways. The system has suffered many setbacks in its nearly 15 years of operation, but it is still one of the main ways in which industry is held to account for its contribution to global heating.

It is not yet known what, if anything, will replace emissions trading after Brexit, when manufacturers and other heavy industries are likely to come under increasing economic pressure if trade is disrupted. Manufacturingoutput has already come under pressure from the prospect of a no-deal exit, but losing manufacturing in the UK will not reduce carbon emissions overall, but will increase reliance on imports.

Farming, land use and food

The UK must reduce its meat consumption
 The UK must reduce its meat consumption Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

More than a tenth of greenhouse gas emissions comes from agriculture and this proportion is rising as other sectors have been able to reduce emissions faster.

Growing more trees is the key plank of the government’s strategy on land use, along with better soil management. Michael Gove, the environment secretary, has set out plans for the UK’s first soil strategy since the “dig for victory” campaigns of the second world war. Soil is one of the world’s biggest carbon sinks, but can also be a major source of carbon depending on the farming techniques used.

Details of the strategy are still to come, and when it comes to tree planting farmers face some uncertainty. There are benefits under the common agricultural policy for planting new and maintaining existing trees, but these can be complex and hard to access. The government has promised £50m for rural tree planting in England to meet its target of 10m new trees across the countryside. The UK is one of the least wooded countries in Europe, with 10% of land forested in England, 15% in Wales, 19% in Scotland and only 8% in Northern Ireland.

Urban trees can also be a vital way of reducing carbon, cleaning air and reducing the impact of climate change by providing shade and health benefits. The government has put up £10m for 130,000 new trees in towns and cities in the next two years. There is no national policy, however, and some local authorities and landowners such as Network Rail have embarked on tree-cutting programmes without clear oversight of the environmental costs and benefits.

Our heavy consumption of meat is taking a toll on our health as well as the planet, and farmers can help reduce emissions from livestock, for instance by improving their diet so they produce less methane. Ultimately, however, meat consumption must be reduced. Moving from a high-meat to a low-meat diet would cut emissions by 35%, the CCC found.

Biodegradable food waste must not be sent to landfill, where it rots to produce methane, after 2025, according to the CCC. Food waste should be avoided as far as possible to bring down agricultural emissions. Unavoidable food waste, treated properly with anaerobic digestion, can be a source of natural gas to be used for heating or electricity generation, displacing fossil fuels.

Tim Benton, the dean of strategic research at the University of Leeds, says food will only increase in importance as a source of greenhouse gases. He says: “When you have reduced everything else – energy, transport, and so on – the thing you’re left with is food.”

A ‘just transition’

When the UK first made its “dash for gas”, it was in the context of closing coal mines and the aftermath of the miners’ strike of the 1980s. Hundreds of thousands of workers in traditional coal-mining areas lost their jobs and the devastation is still keenly felt across swathes of the UK. The recent and enduring memory of that loss and upheaval should act as a warning of how not to engineer a transition to a new form of economy, trade unions believe.

Sue Ferns, Prospect’s senior deputy director general, says: “We need a just transition for all the workers affected and this means we need to work proactively to ensure that the damage inflicted on coal communities in the 1980s is not repeated.”

Climate change: UK ‘can cut emissions to nearly zero’ by 2050

Wee Rebellion protesters stage a "die in" beneath Dippy the Dinosaur at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in GlasgowImage copyrightPA
Image captionProtesters at a “die in” in Glasgow

The UK should lead the global fight against climate change by cutting greenhouse gases to nearly zero by 2050, a report says.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) maintains this can be done at no added cost from previous estimates.

Its report says that if other countries follow the UK, there’s a 50-50 chance of staying below the recommended 1.5C temperature rise by 2100.

A 1.5C rise is considered the threshold for dangerous climate change.

Some say the proposed 2050 target for near-zero emissions is too soft, but others will fear the goal could damage the UK’s economy.

The CCC – the independent adviser to government on climate change – said it would not be able to hit “net zero“ emissions any sooner, but 2050 was still an extremely significant goal.

The main author Chris Stark told me: “This report would have been absolutely inconceivable just a few years ago. People would have laughed us out of court for suggesting that the target could be so high.”

The main change, he said, was the huge drop in the cost of renewable energy prompted by government policies to nurture solar and wind power.