The livestock sector is one of the leading causes of climate change, responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than global transport, and ProVeg International plans to meet with policy makers and delegates at COP23 to highlight the issue. To date, agriculture has not been on the agenda at any previous UN Climate Change conference and has so far remained free from climate protection measures, according to ProVeg.
ProVeg is an international food awareness organization active in the UK, Germany, Netherlands, Poland and Spain.
Animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the whole world’s transport combined, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. This makes it one of the leading drivers of climate change. It is also a leading cause of other environmental challenges, including deforestation, biodiversity loss, fresh water usage and pollution, according to ProVeg.
If meat consumption continues to rise at the current rate, by 2050 greenhouse gas emissions from this sector alone will increase by 80%, ProVeg says.
“By focusing so narrowly on energy and transport, policymakers have been excluding the key missing piece of the puzzle. Now is the time to have cars and cows on the same climate agenda, otherwise the industrial juggernaut that is animal agriculture will destroy our planet,” says Jimmy Pierson, director of ProVeg UK.
Agriculture Faces Hefty Risk
The agriculture sector faces extraordinary risk when it comes to the effects of climate change. Water is currently one of the biggest risks to the $5 trillion food industry, according to the sustainability nonprofit organization, Ceres. The global food sector, which uses 70% of the world’s freshwater, faces the twin challenges of water scarcity and water pollution. Rising competition, combined with aging water infrastructure, weak regulation and climate change are creating a water availability emergency that the World Economic Forum recently ranked as the world’s “top global risk.”
“More than 85% of our water footprint is from growing and transporting crops, and turning those crops into food ingredients,” says Jerry Lynch, VP and chief sustainability officer at General Mills (via an Environmental Leader article published earlier this fall). He says the company continues to identify opportunities to increase efficiency and conservation upstream of its operations, which is where the company can have the most impact.
Next week’s UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, is designed to increase climate action and more sustainable development at all levels of society, the event’s website explains. Alongside COP23 is the Sustainable Innovation Forum, which brings together more than 600 hand picked delegates including Ministers of Energy and Climate Change, CEOs, mayors, investors, development banks, entrepreneurs and media for keynotes, panel discussions, and networking.
“We need to prove that protecting the environment is profitable and in everyone’s best interests. We can do this by holding up successful examples,” says Erik Solheim, executive director of UN Environment.