Informing media coverage and policy debate on climate change

Published: 2 June 2021

Approximately 15% of greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock. However, public awareness of livestock's role in causing climate change remains low. UofG research has driven media coverage and promoted a ‘meat tax’ as a viable policy option for the first time.

Protesting for climate change

The research

Between 2010–2011, Dr Catherine Happer, Professor Gregory Philo, Laura Wellesley and Antony Froggatt (both from Chatham House) conducted a study looking at audience reception of climate change communications.

Key findings were that public awareness of the link between diet and climate change is low, and that meat remains off the policy agenda.

However, the study found that when information is delivered in ways which emphasise the dual benefits—regarding both personal health and climate change—interventions supported by structural change were welcomed.

These findings suggest that governments may overestimate the risk of public backlash, and that their inaction may signal that the issue is unimportant, or undeserving of concern.

These insights emphasised the importance of a ‘meat tax’ as the most effective and publicly-acceptable policy response.

The impact

An international launch ensured that the research report was covered by media outlets including the Telegraph, the Guardian, the Independent, the Times, BBC News and Reuters.

The authors also presented the research to an audience of journalists, national governments and NGOs at an event at the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) in 2015.

The UK Government listens to the press and increased calls for a tax on meat have imposed significant pressure on ministers to respond. 

In January 2019, the leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas MP, urged parliament to ‘seriously consider’ introducing a meat tax to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Lucas explained, ‘this research has been very helpful in my work advocating measures that the government could deploy to reduce the climate impact of the food and farming sector.’

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First published: 2 June 2021