15 meat and dairy companies emit more methane than Russia yet given free pass by Global Methane Pledge

15 Nov 2022 Growing the Good

Fifteen of the world’s biggest meat and dairy companies emit more methane than countries such as Russia, Canada, Australia, or Germany, reveals new research released today.

The report, which calls for more ambitious action to cut emissions from the meat and dairy sector, is being launched ahead of a Global Methane Pledge Ministerial at the UN Climate Summit on 17th November where 40 countries are expected to release national methane plans.

‘Emissions Impossible: Methane Edition’ from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the Changing Markets Foundation, calculates the methane emissions of companies such as Nestlé, Danone, Danish Crown and Saputo for the first time. It finds:

  • The companies’ combined methane emissions rival that of the EU (83%) and Russia (115%) and far exceed Canada (377%), Australia (355%) and Germany (705%). Together they are responsible for 3.4% of global methane emissions from human activity.
  • The methane emissions of Brazilian meat company – JBS – exceed the combined livestock methane emissions of France, Germany, Canada and New Zealand. The methane footprint of the US multinational, Tyson Foods, is comparable to Russia’s livestock, and New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra comparable to Ireland’s livestock.
  • The companies’ combined greenhouse gas emissions are greater than that of Germany, the world’s fourth biggest economy, and exceed those of oil and gas giants such as ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell.

Despite their huge climate footprint, only six of the companies fully report their emissions – including from animals in their supply chains which account for 90% of the sector’s climate footprint. None of the companies publish information on the methane emissions of their supply chains. It is difficult to assess their climate plans and commitments without this information.

Shefali Sharma, European Director for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy said: “The methane emissions of the big meat and dairy companies rival those of nation states, yet they hide their colossal climate footprint behind a veneer of greenwash and net zero targets. These companies won’t do what is needed voluntarily – governments must set rules to regulate their emissions and support farmers to transition away from industrial agriculture.”

The Pledge, launched at the Glasgow Climate Summit last year, commits 130 countries to a 30% cut in global methane emissions by 2030. However, the focus on tech fixes such as animal feed additives over action to cut livestock numbers means even the EU and US are not on track to meet this target. None of the signatories – including nine of the ten countries where the 15 big meat and dairy companies are headquartered – have sufficient plans to deal with livestock methane. Livestock farming is responsible for 32% of global emissions and continues to rise.

Nusa Urbanic, Campaigns Director at Changing Markets Foundation said: “A handful of meat and dairy corporations are responsible for 1 in every 10 tonnes of methane produced by livestock, yet they have been given a free pass to pollute under the Global Methane Pledge. Governments should require them to report and reduce their emissions and oblige these hugely wealthy companies to put their money where their mouth is and invest in real climate solutions.”

The UN says a 40-45% reduction in methane emissions by 2030 offers the best hope of keeping global heating below 1.5C and avoiding dangerous tipping points. Methane only remains in the atmosphere for a decade but has 80 times more warming potential than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timespan. Under current policies, emissions are expected to rise by 30% between 2015-2050.

Ricardo Salvador, Director, Food & Environment Program, Union of Concerned Scientists said: “Our best hope of keeping global heating below 1.5C is through rapid cuts in methane emissions that are only possible with more ambitious action targeting emissions from the livestock industry in the Global Methane Pledge and government policy. The Farm Bill in the US and the Common Agriculture Policy in the EU, should help farmers and ranchers produce less and better meat and dairy for the good of people and the planet.”

Notes to editor

An embargoed copy of the ‘Emissions Impossible: Methane Edition’ report is available here ahead of publication.

It will be published on the Changing Markets Foundation website here and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy here.

The report analysed the emissions of 10 big dairy companies – Arla (Denmark), Dairy Farmers of America (US), Danone (France), Deutsche Milchkontor (Germany), Fonterra (New Zealand), FrieslandCampina (Netherlands), Lactalis (France), Nestlé (Switzerland), Saputo (Canada), Yili (China) – and 5 of the biggest meat companies – Danish Crown (Denmark), JBS (Brazil), Marfrig (Brazil), Tyson (US), WH Group (China).

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