Consumption of animal products such as meat and dairy has increased at an unprecedented pace since 1950s, with people in the Global North now consuming more than twice what is considered healthy.
The number of animals grown for food currently stands at 30 billion, four times the number of humans on the planet, which is having significant negative environmental impacts. It is responsible for 16.5% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 60% of all human-caused biodiversity loss. Moreover, it requires huge amounts of natural resources, including 70-80% of all agricultural land devoted to growing animal feed and pasture, and around half of all water that is used for food production. Nevertheless, livestock production is forecast to grow further, particularly driven by population growth and the expansion of the middle-classes in emerging economies.
Growing the Good: The Case For Low-Carbon Transition in the Food Sector
This report looked at the climate, environmental and health impacts of overconsumption of meat and animal products, current market trends and public policies in this area. It found that the number of vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians is growing rapidly, particularly among the younger generations, a trend which is being reflected in a buoyant market for plant-based products and a wide array of companies manufacturing innovative meat alternatives. However, the report also found that there is a complete lack of public policies supporting these positive consumer and market shifts, which are needed to ensure the food sector is part of the solution to climate change. This stands in stark contrast with significant array of measures supporting a low-carbon transition in sectors such as energy and transport. Shockingly, instead of supporting such societal trends, politicians are succumbing to pressure from meat producers by introducing new legislative measures aiming to restrict market growth for alternatives, such as the recent French ban on terms like ‘vegan burger’, and continuing to support unsustainable agricultural production systems dominated by intensive meat and dairy farmers and producers. The report offers a number of recommendations for policy makers around the world to support such transition, including putting in place ambitious climate targets that drive emission reductions in animal agriculture in line with Paris agreement; introducing fiscal policies to reduce meat demand and consumption; implementing dietary guidelines that encourage a shift to healthier diets including the reduction of animal products; shifting subsidies away from polluting intensive animal farms and addressing negative externalities of animal agriculture; incentivising the production of diverse and underused protein crops, such as pulses, for human consumption; and funding more research and development of plant-based and other meat alternatives, such as clean meat.
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