World Earth day action

22 April 2015

Aerial shot of a concentrated animal feeding operation

A vision of farmageddon.

Some of the world’s leading climate scientists have today urged world leaders to sign up to an eight-point plan of action at the Paris climate talks in December (COP21).

One of the plan’s central points is to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius by moving to zero carbon emissions by 2050. But we won’t achieve this without tackling the inadequacies of our broken food system.

The Earth League

On World Earth Day, 17 of the world’s leading climate scientists (known collectively as The Earth League) have issued an unequivocal challenge to world leaders – to adopt an eight-point Earth Statement, which includes “limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius” and “creating a zero-carbon society by 2050”.

Quoted by BBC News, Johan Rockström of the Stockholm Resilience Center in Sweden and Earth League chair said: "Six years after the failure at Copenhagen, the world now has a second chance to agree upon a safe pathway towards a future that does not undermine human well-being in the world … The window is still open but just barely.”

Livestock sector plays a part

The UNFAO estimates that the livestock sector is responsible for around 14.5% of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.

The European Council Conclusions of October 2014 stresses“the need to ensure coherence between the EU’s food security and climate change objectives”, but the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality – the political response to our agricultural challenges has been deeply underwhelming and, in most cases, unhelpful. The mantra of sustainable intensification is ever-present in relevant policy circles and increasingly seen as a panacea, even though intensification of the livestock sector lies at the heart of many of the agricultural problems of greenhouse gas emissions. We join an ever-increasing number of scientists, NGOs and other stakeholders in arguing that business-as-usual cannot solve the climate change challenge.

Specifically, Compassion argues that:

  • We don’t need to increase the intensity of livestock production to cut emissions. As the FAO states, “the mitigation potential can be achieved within existing systems; this means that the potential can be achieved as a result of improving practices rather than changing production systems.”
  • In any case, it is questionable whether further intensification of livestock production will actually reduce GHG emissions.
  • Increasing the intensity of livestock production is not necessary from a food security point of view. We already produce enough food to feed 10 billion people.
  • In fact, increasing the intensive nature of livestock production will undermine food security, diverting food that humans could eat to farm animals, and make it much harder to tackles other key global issues such as consumer safety, health diets, water pollution and biodiversity loss.
  • In short, we can’t look at climate change in isolation from other critical policy areas.

"Intensify" - a red herring for the developed  world

Our CEO, Philip Lymbery, says: “The word “intensify” may sound like progress, but it’s a red herring for the developed world, where livestock production has already been pushed to breaking point, along with the animals that are stuck in these systems.

“We are in desperate need of common sense agricultural policy, which recognises the vital, holistic and positive role that more humane-sustainable forms of agriculture play in climate mitigation and adaptation, as well as other vital policy areas. I join the Earth League in challenging world leaders to be brave in Paris this December and make the common-sense decisions that our fragile earth so desperately need.”

For more details on our policy position regarding livestock production and climate change, please refer to this document.


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