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As party conference season ends, I think we can conclude there are disagreements on environmental policy.

One side decries the other’s “anti-planet climate culture war”; while the net zero secretary claims net zero has become a religion for certain “zealots”.

On both sides, the language ratchets up. But the facts remain unmoved by political wrangling.

We’re facing a climate emergency and emissions continue to climb. Whether you consider it inconvenient or not, the UK has legally binding net zero obligations under the Paris Agreement.

Sadly, one of the biggest opportunities to reduce emissions – climate labelling on food – was not given the deserved profile at either party conference.

Our food system is responsible for more than a third (35%) of total UK greenhouse gas emissions. Yet this clear opportunity to make a real impact continues to be neglected, lost amidst the furore over HS2, supposed wars on motorists and ‘meat tax’ clickbait.

The UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) says a 78% reduction in UK emissions is required by 2035, based on 1990 levels. It says government needs to “implement policies to encourage consumers to shift towards healthier diets” including “low-cost, low-regret actions to encourage a 20% shift away from all meat by 2030, rising to 35% by 2050, and a 20% shift away from dairy products by 2030”.

It’s an inescapable reality: emissions must come down and behaviour change is a necessary part of achieving that.

But it’s unreasonable to expect that to happen when consumers are not being given the information they need to make informed choices.

The case for climate labelling on food is entirely logical, not ideological. Shoppers are provided with data to understand environmental impact all the time: the emissions of a car, the energy performance of a house, or even a fridge, yet not the footprint of the food or drink within it.

Our most recent independent research, commissioned in September, showed most (59%) UK consumers say they would change their food and drink consumption behaviour if they had accurate information. A majority (55%) believe publishing carbon information should be mandatory. One in 10 said they would stop eating or drinking products with a high carbon footprint entirely. And almost half of respondents said they would reduce their consumption of food and drink with a high carbon footprint.

Climate labelling would support retailers in reaching their Scope 3 emission targets and help the country make progress towards our net zero commitment. But it’s also an electoral opportunity for government, given there is increasing voter support.

Oatly has published the climate impact data of its products on-pack in the UK since 2019. We don’t have all the answers, but now we’re convening companies from across the food system to agree on what a practical, effective climate labelling system could look like.

Let’s give consumers the information they need and are asking for, so they can make informed decisions about the food and drink they buy. 

Given the significant impact of the food and drink we consume on the planet, the obvious question is: climate labelling – why not?