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Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions requires significant reductions in meat and dairy production and consumption in the overproducing and over-consuming countries.
According to a new report from the activist organisation GRAIN, the world’s largest meat and dairy companies could surpass ExxonMobil, Shell and BP as the world’s biggest climate polluters within the next few decades.
“At a time when the planet must dramatically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, these global animal protein giants are driving consumption by ramping up production and exports,” GRAIN says.
GRAIN, which describes itself as a small international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems, and IATP, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, looked at how the world’s largest 35 companies dealt with problems of greenhouse gas emissions.
The study found that most are not reporting their GHG emissions data and few have set targets that could reduce their overall emissions.
“We need to urgently build food systems that meet the needs of farmers, consumers and the planet,” the report says.
“But to do so, we must break the power of the big meat and dairy conglomerates and hold them to account for their supersized climate footprint.
The research from GRAIN and IATP shows that: together, the world’s top five meat and dairy corporations are now responsible for more annual greenhouse gas emissions than ExxonMobil, Shell or BP.
It says that by 2050, the world must reduce global emissions by 38 billion tonnes to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“If all other sectors follow that path while the meat and dairy industry’s growth continues as projected, the livestock sector could eat up 80 per cent of the allowable GHG budget in just 32 years, the GRAIN report says.
It adds that most of the top 35 global meat and dairy giants either do not report or underreport their emissions and just four of them provide complete emissions estimates.
Fourteen of the 35 companies have announced some form of emission reduction targets and of these, six have targets that include supply chain emissions.
However, GRAIN says that these emissions can account for up to 90 per cent of total emissions.
The six companies that do pledge cuts in supply chain emissions are simultaneously pushing for growth in production and exports, driving their overall emissions up regardless of their intention to reduce emissions per kilo of milk or meat produced.
“There are several possible pathways to bringing emissions from meat and dairy production down to levels that are compatible with global efforts to prevent dangerous climate change,” the report concludes.
“All of them, however, require significant reductions in meat and dairy production and consumption in the overproducing and over-consuming countries.
“Reduction in both production and consumption in the United States, the EU, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil alone would result in dramatic cuts in global emissions.
“Other countries must also take care to keep consumption and production at moderate per capita levels, in line with their nutritional requirements and the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C.”