Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / Djurrattsalliansen

Tackle over-consumption of meat and dairy to avoid climate change ‘cliff edge’ – new report

The agriculture industry is not being taken to task over its climate responsibilities – that’s the assessment made today by Changing Markets Foundation and the NGOs Compassion in World Farming and Mighty Earth.

Animal agriculture is responsible for around 16.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, equivalent to the emissions from the combustion of all transport fuels. In the EU, intensive meat and dairy production are responsible for a huge share of the 10% of GHG emissions that come from the agriculture sector.

Yet government policies around the world universally support unsustainable agricultural production systems dominated by intensive meat and dairy farmers and producers.

Nusa Urbancic, Campaigns Director at the Changing Markets Foundation, said:

“The lack of public policies in this sector is alarming. If meat and dairy consumption increases as forecast, there will be almost no room within the total allowable global emissions budget for any sectors other than agriculture by 2050.”

Urbancic also highlighted that the “window of opportunity” to tackle climate change is closing. Today’s report comes just a week after the IPCC issued its stark climate change cliff edge warning to the world’s politicians.

She added that it is the agriculture sector itself that is already feeling climate change’s consequences: “This year’s droughts resulted in food price increases and even more public subsidies to this polluting sector – mostly to finance feed imports. Unsustainable bail-outs should end and governments should instead finance the transition towards a low emissions food system with more environmentally friendly farming methods and healthier diets.”

While in many EU countries and in the United States, meat consumption is more than double the recommended levels for healthy diets, at the same time the number of vegans and vegetarians is growing rapidly and many more people, particularly young people, are reducing their meat intake.

Credit: Changing Markets


Anahita Yousefi, Mighty Earth Campaigns Director, said:

“The complete absence of public policies to promote a shift towards plant-based diets means that this critical dietary shift is left to the whims of the market and personal choice. The public is being forced to foot the bill for environmental impact of animal agriculture and the market is being denied opportunities for more sustainable models of food production and healthier diets.”

The report comes just days after a leaked opinion from the European Parliament’s legal service revealed that the European Commission’s proposed changes to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy will make crucial environmental and climate protection instruments weaker than under the current system.

Bérénice Dupeux, Policy Officer for Agriculture at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB):

“Given the immense scale of the problem our political leaders cannot turn a blind eye on climate change and they must address it within the current reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. Farm ministers and MEPs have a moral obligation to put the rights of future generations first.”

Dupeux added: “This report is yet more evidence that to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, the agriculture sector needs to significantly reduce meat and dairy production to reduce overall emissions – just as many other industries are doing. The number of extreme climate events is increasing. As this summer’s droughts showed us, we cannot afford to pour money into continuing the type of agriculture that is exacerbating climate change and leave environmental ambition to good will.”

This research is the latest in a slew of findings on the need to decrease meat consumption to limit runaway climate change.

Last week, one of the most comprehensive reports on our food system’s environmental impact stated that a huge reduction in meat-eating will be essential to avoid dangerous climate change. A recent report form the RISE Foundation warned that Europe must halve its meat and dairy production by 2050 to ensure sustainability of the livestock sector.