A lead United Nations agency overseeing food and agriculture policy is expected to issue a road map in the coming weeks which will call on the West, including America, to dramatically reduce its meat consumption.
The UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) will publish its so-called global food systems’ road map during the upcoming COP28 climate summit in Dubai which will kick off on Thursday, November 30, and extend nearly two weeks until mid-December. FAO’s first-of-its-kind document will recommend nations that “over-consume meat” to limit their consumption as part of a broader effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Bloomberg reported.
“The failure of leading meat and dairy companies to reduce emissions underlines the urgent need for more policy focus on the food and agriculture sector,” Jeremy Coller, the chair and founder of the FAIRR Initiative, an investor network that works with financial institutions to promote climate-friendly agriculture worldwide, said in a recent statement.
“Food system emissions deserve a place at the top of the table, alongside energy and transport, as they represent an estimated third of greenhouse gas emissions and 40% of methane,” he continued. “Investors hope the first-ever publication of a food and agriculture road map at COP28 this month will catalyze the transition to 1.5 degrees and a more sustainable food system.”
In addition to issuing guidelines for reducing meat consumption in the West, the FAO is expected to highlight how farmers should adapt to “erratic weather” and tackle their emissions produced from food waste and use of fertilizer, according to Bloomberg. The recommendations, which the U.S. COP28 delegation may sign onto, will not be binding.
Overall, the road map will seek to guide policy on lowering the climate impact of the global agriculture industry, which has rarely received such attention at past UN climate conferences. Past COP summits have been far more keen to address emissions generated from the global power, transportation and manufacturing sectors.
The global food system — which includes land-use change, actual agricultural production, packaging and waste management — generates about 18 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent of 34% of total worldwide emissions, according to a March 2021 study published in the Nature Food journal. FAO data indicates livestock alone is responsible for around 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The UN has, for years, called for individuals to ditch animal-based diets, which it says “have a high impact on our planet.” Instead, individuals should choose plant-based foods, according to the UN, which can reduce a person’s annual carbon footprint by up to 2.1 tons.