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. Animal agriculture is responsible for 16.5% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 32% of all human-caused methane emissions. 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. This campaign is focused on the need to rapidly cut methane emissions from livestock and transition to healthier diets with less and better meat and dairy.
Blindspot: How lack of action on livestock methane undermines climate targets
The livestock agricultural sector is the single largest contributor to man-made methane emissions. Enteric fermentation in stomachs of ruminants, such as cows and goats, and manure management is responsible for 32% of this potent greenhouse gas, which is 86-times stronger than CO2 over 20 years. Scientists have warned that rapid reductions of methane emissions are needed to slow the rate of global heating and avoid dangerous climate tipping points. For this reason, we have investigated the policies and actions of some of the biggest meat and dairy producing countries and companies to reduce their methane emissions. Our analysis shows that all of the 20 meat and dairy giants scored poorly, which indicates that the largest corporate methane emitters are oblivious to the problem and their responsibility to address it. Only seven of the 20 companies have science-based targets for their overall GHG emissions, but none of them report methane emissions separately or have any targets or action plans to reduce them. Although over half of the companies invest in methane abatement measures, they do not disclose how much these investments are. We have also discovered that none of the 18 countries with the biggest livestock industries has effective policies in place to reduce methane emissions. Although most of these countries report their livestock methane emissions, these have been remained stable or have even increased in half of the countries analysed over the last five reported years. The report calls for rapid policy action to address this problem. In particular, countries where the average consumption of meat and dairy is above recommended intake should develop national action plans with binding policies for consumption reduction. These should focus on a shift to a diet containing less and better meat and dairy, with the promotion of alternative protein and a shift to better food production systems. On the industry side, there should be specific regulations requiring companies to set science-based targets to cut their carbon and methane emissions, both by using technical measures and by reducing livestock production.
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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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