Tech fixes to reduce methane are mere band-aids, not solutions to climate change, says ProVeg
17 May 2023
ProVeg is highlighting the need to unlock the potential of alternative proteins
Technical fixes to reduce the amount of methane released into the atmosphere by the animal agriculture industry do not offer long-term resilient solutions to tackling climate change, ProVeg International has told a US conference.
Proposed ideas to use vaccinations or selective breeding and feed additives such as seaweed to reduce methane from cows and sheep will not be as effective in bringing down methane in the long run. Instead, the focus must be on reducing animal stocks and consumers’ meat consumption, ProVeg told the AIM for Climate Summit in Washington D.C this month. The summit saw private- and public-sector stakeholders meet to discuss climate-oriented solutions and investment opportunities in food and agriculture systems.
Methane – a powerful greenhouse gas – is largely emitted into the atmosphere through the farming of animals. Livestock, especially ruminants such as cows and sheeps, contribute a total of 32% of global methane emissions.
Raphaël Podselver, Director of UN Affairs at ProVeg International, said: “Most potential solutions have not yet reached the market and might be still years away from doing so. As they still are in development, they can not be used at scale.”
On top of this, Podselver said that such fixes could arguably be used by the industry to make out that emissions are being reduced when they are not.
“Using those technical solutions could be seen as an attempt to greenwash and continue with current practices – potentially further upscaling the production of industrial animal-based foods while making them seem more environmentally friendly,” he said.
Technical innovations currently being proposed to bring down methane include:
Vaccinations that target all microorganisms that create methane in the rumen. These show a potential to reduce methane emissions to a limited amount. However, studies (for example from Australia) have shown mixed results and some have shown higher methane emission after vaccination.
Selective breeding in sheep. These showed reduction of methane emissions by 10% over three generations. However, breeding takes time – first results in the EU have found that breeding for low methane in cows might also select for less efficient animals.
Using seaweed as feed. This has the potential to reduce methane by up to 80%, but most studies using seaweed involved small numbers of animals and a duration of a maximum of six months. Also, there are potential risks to health and the environment of using seaweed.
Plant-based foods emit half the amount of greenhouse gases as animal-based foods and their promotion and consumption are therefore more effective in reducing methane in the long term.
“It’s vital to shift the focus away from technical fixes to the animal industry and to look instead at the ways we can unlock the potential of protein diversification, be that through research and development, marketing, greater public procurement or education campaigns,” Podselver said.
Notes to Editors
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About ProVeg International
ProVeg is an international food awareness organisation working to transform the global food system by replacing conventional animal-based products with plant-based and cultivated alternatives.
ProVeg works with international decision-making bodies, governments, food producers, investors, the media, and the general public to help the world transition to a society and economy that are less dependent on animal agriculture and more sustainable for humans, animals, and the planet.
ProVeg has permanent-observer status with the UNFCCC, is accredited for UNEA, and has received the United Nations’ Momentum for Change Award. ProVeg also has Observer Status at the IPCC.