A government research paper recommending people to “shift eating habits” to plant-based foods was hastily canceled.
The paper focuses on changing public behavior to achieve climate goals and also suggests promoting domestic tourism and representing business travel as “immoral indulgence”.
It was canceled immediately after publication by the Department for Business.
Beis said the document was academic research and not official policy.
“We have no plans to dictate consumer behavior in this way. For this reason, our Net Zero strategy published yesterday contained no such plans,” he said.
The Behavioral Insights Unit, also known as the Nudge Unit, wrote the paper.
The unit is best known for its role in designing the sugar levy and for early comments on the “herd immunity” strategy against the pandemic.
The document was quickly deleted and replaced with a note saying it was published in error, but BBC News obtained a copy.
It was later also put online by Alex Chapman, a researcher at the New Economics Foundation.
Following the example of the sugar tax, the Behavioral Investigation Unit has proposed a tax on producers or retailers of “high-carbon foods” to encourage plant-based and local diets.
He suggests “building support for a bold policy”, such as a tax on sheep and beef producers.
However, he argues that an “unsophisticated meat tax would be highly regressive”.
The research paper also says the government can begin to accustom people to the idea of plant-based food through its spending in hospitals, schools, prisons, courts and military facilities.
He also says that a “timely time to intervene” in changing diets could be to target people attending college or first-time renters.
“Learn a new recipe”
The document acknowledges that “asking people to directly eat less meat and dairy is a major political challenge”, although positive representation and “smaller requests” – for example, people learning a new recipe – may be possible.
When it comes to flights, the paper suggests “much higher carbon taxes”.
One possibility discussed in the document is to try to “shift social norms” to make in-person business meetings that require international flights a sign of “immoral indulgence or embarrassment” rather than a sign of “importance”.
Meanwhile, he says domestic tourism should be promoted to reduce consumer demand for international flights.
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