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 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.
“We already have solutions to tackle climate change, and many of these solutions, whether it is agroforestry, restoration of soils, sustainable livestock, or fisheries management, have multiple benefits as they can also support the sustainable use of biodiversity, as well as help with food security — multiple benefits from the same solutions that only agriculture and food systems offer,” Kaveh Zahedi, the director of the FAO Office of Climate Change, said last week.
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.
In the U.S., though, agriculture alone generates about 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions, federal data shows. The American agriculture sector accounts for just 1.4% of global emissions and has implemented a wide range of solutions, making it the nation’s lowest-emitting economic sector.
“America’s farmers and ranchers are climate heroes, reducing emissions while providing abundant and affordable food, fiber, and fuel,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., told Fox News Digital in a statement.
“Regulating producers out of business in the U.S. will not effectively address global climate change, but export production to foreign countries with hostile regimes and worse emissions profiles while harming food security and affordability. Simply put, the world needs American farmers and ranchers more than the UN,” he added.
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, U.S. farmers are getting more than three times the production compared to what they put in. And emissions have significantly declined in pork and beef production.
In May, meanwhile, Thompson joined a group of fellow House Republicans in rebuking President Biden’s special climate envoy John Kerry over his comments singling out food emissions. They called on President Biden and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to disavow the comments which were delivered at the Department of Agriculture’s AIM for Climate Summit earlier that month.
“A lot of people have no clue that agriculture contributes about 33% of all the emissions of the world,” Kerry remarked at the time. “We can’t get to net-zero, we don’t get this job done unless agriculture is front and center as part of the solution. So all of us understand here the depths of this mission.”
“Food systems themselves contribute a significant amount of emissions just in the way in which we do the things we’ve been doing,” he continued. “With a growing population on the planet – we just crossed the threshold of 8 billion fellow citizens around the world – emissions from the food system alone are projected to cause another half a degree of warming by mid-century.”
Neither FAO nor Kerry’s office responded to a request for comment by time of publication.
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