Gulliver’s Travels meets carbon reduction targets (apologies to satirist J Swift)

17th Aug 2020


In a faraway land, Government bureaucrats were trying to get consumers to change their behaviour. They wanted more vegetables consumed and less red meat. They argued that red meat production and consumption was not compatible with meeting global carbon reduction targets. They also argued that vegetables were good for the consumer, because they were lower carbon.

Unfortunately for these bureaucrats, consumers liked the choice of what they wanted to eat. Indeed, 85 per cent of all consumers liked to eat red meat – not all the time, but when they wanted to. The bureaucrats were busy trying to find ways to encourage that 85 per cent to change their behaviour, so they came up with a great idea. Let’s fine the butcher if they keep selling red meat and they don’t sell as many vegetables as the bureaucracy demands.

Now the butcher responded by saying they don’t sell vegetables because consumers go to a greengrocer for that. But this didn’t stop the clever thinking of Government. If the butcher can’t sell vegetables, we fine them. The only way the way they escape the fine is to force the consumer to eat the vegetables by giving them away for free or very cheaply.

The butcher then asked what type of vegetable? It didn’t matter to the bureaucrats, clearly thrilled that their idea was working. So the consumer could have the least attractive, poorest quality veg supplied by the butcher (who didn’t produce them locally but bought them overseas) and that would satisfy the Government target, even if it left the consumer hungry and the butcher making some of his staff redundant.

What was worse for the butcher, is that they had spent a considerable sum creating red meat that could be produced and consumed that was low carbon. The consumer wouldn’t notice the difference in taste or how it was cooked. The butcher asked if they could prevent being fined if they sold this low carbon red meat instead of vegetables. I know, you’re thinking that seems sensible but the bureaucrats hadn’t thought about this before, so said no. They wanted consumers to only eat vegetables, in doing so, they lost sight of what the problem really was. Is it carbon reduction or did they just not like red meat?

*Any similarities between this tale and conversations BEIS may have had about gas boiler manufacturers having to sell heat pumps, is of course a total coincidence … or is it?

Best wishes

Mike Foster, CEO