Meat consumption, an overlooked driver of climate change

Sharon Tshipa - BG correspondent
Monday, 10 December 2018
Meat consumption, an overlooked driver of climate change

The agricultural system is the major contributor of emissions now threatening human lives. For this reason, the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report emphasises a shift to healthier and more sustainable diets and lifestyles that limit food waste.

Contributors of the IPCC report are not the only ones concerned about the role diet plays in climate change issues. ProVeg International, a leading international food awareness organisation working across four continents, in six countries, is pushing for the reduction of meat consumption by 50 percent by the year 2040. Their actions are inspired by their belief that about 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions originate from the global food system. Livestock farming, ProVeg says accounts for 14.5 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions more than the entire transport sector.

To end or minimise the effects of climate change, the IPCC report released in October, 2018 suggests limiting demand for greenhouse gas intensive foods, like meat. The report contributors view this as key to achieving a 1.5 degrees Celsius compatible pathway. Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture the report posits need to be reduced by 40 percent or more relative to 2010 by 2050 if forest cover is increased. Despite the seemingly urgent need to address the role diet plays in climate change, out of around 200 official Side Events offering dialogue for a diverse climate change topics such as energy, financing, and just transition, only two are addressing shifting diets.

Nico Nettelmann, Campaign Manager at ProVeg International, when sharing during the ongoing 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice, Poland said, ProVeg continues the conversation started last year at COP23, to advocate for a stronger focus on demand-side solutions.

Moreover he explained that there is still a gap in the diet and climate change conversation, but slowly he said agriculture and food security in general gets more attention at the international fora.In the lead up to the climate conference graced by over 28 000 participants from across the world, ProVeg did a submission to the Talanoa Dialogue. But the organisation does not work alone. It is part of two networks –the Food and Climate Alliance (FCA) and climate action networks. To date ProVeg has initiated a schoolkids programme in United Kingdom, among other countries, that encourage meat free meals for children. “110 primary schools in the UK have committed,” said David.

Impacts of meat and dairy on the planet are life threatening, both to humans and other species. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, overexploitation and agriculture are the most prevalent threats facing the 8, 688 threatened or near-threatened species from comprehensively assessed species groups.

While other life forms are being threatened by the intemperate meat eating habits of people across the world, human beings themselves are soon to be evicted from their homes by the dire effects of the climate change they are contributing to by eating meat, as 143 million people according to ProVeg may soon become climate change migrants.

Climate variability and extremes are also a key force behind the recent rise in global hunger. According to statistics ProVeg shared, world hunger increased and reached 821 million people in 2017 – that is 1 in 9 people.In order to get out of this sticky situation, ProVeg International believes that the world needs to focus on how to create sustainable forms of agriculture. The organisation feels that people spend time analysing how to make this transition to a fossil free transport system possible or how to transition towards renewable energy and move away from gas and coal, but the same should be done for agriculture, taking into consideration that 80 percent of agricultural land is dedicated to livestock production.

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