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Paris Agreements: what about our diets?

News Section Icon Published 22/04/2016

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At the end of 2015, bold agreements were made by leaders of United Nations countries to limit the rise in global temperatures to well below 2°C. The agreements, made at the Paris Summit on Climate Change (COP21), went even further by affirming efforts should be made to limit the temperature increase to just 1.5°C.

These agreements were officially signed today (22nd April), which is International Mother Earth Day. Each country that signed up will have to set their own national targets for reducing emissions and be completely transparent in reporting them.

A big appetite

In the western world, we eat too much meat and dairy. To fuel this excessive demand, animals are raised on factory farms where they are treated as commodities. Livestock farming accounts for almost 15% of all Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – more than all the cars, trains, planes and ships on the planet combined. Alarmingly, livestock and our diets were omitted from discussions at the Paris Summit entirely, and the agreements make no mention of the need to reduce emissions in this sector.

This notorious absence has been condemned by leading figures in the food and farming scene. Late last year, 95 of Compassion’s visionaries and friends, including TV chef and food waste campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and conservation expert Dr Jane Goodall signed a letter outlaying their dismay at the situation.

Unachievable targets

If we continue on our current path, our diets alone will take us over the agreed targets for reducing GHG emissions. That means that even if all the other sectors which contribute to climate change reduced their emissions to zero, the impact of intensive livestock production would still take us beyond the agreed ‘well below’ 2°C target.

It’s encouraging to see the issue of climate change recognised as a major threat to the future of this planet. But policy-makers must accept that without setting ambitious targets to reduce meat and dairy consumption in the western world, the Paris Agreements are simply unachievable.


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