The food on our plate is causing climate change: here’s a multi-pronged solution
7 March 2023
Urgent action needed to avoid climate breakdown, new study shows
Public procurement of plant-based foods, policies that encourage – not restrict – the plant-based industry, investment in alternative protein product research and innovation, and incentives for farmers to transition away from meat and dairy production are among the actions urgently needed to avoid climate breakdown, ProVeg International said today.
The global food awareness NGO was reacting to a study published this week in Nature Climate Change that reveals that high methane producing foods – meat, dairy and rice – will push us past the 1.5C international target by the end of the century if left unchecked.
Where meat and dairy are concerned, there are plenty of alternatives available and ProVeg International is taking a multi-pronged approach to replacing and reducing them.
“We have taken a microscope to the food system and have developed impactful interventions that will bring about the necessary changes to the food system to ensure we bring down the methane emissions from the meat and dairy industries,” Jasmijn de Boo, Vice President of ProVeg International, said.
“We can no longer ignore the need to significantly transform the food system to ensure a more sustainable future for all, and the good news is that the solutions are already out there to reduce meat and dairy consumption by encouraging a flexitarian diet,” she said.
Science demands food system change
Research pointing to the need to shift to plant-based diets continues to amass. A study from Bonn University published in 2022 stated that rich countries will need to reduce their meat consumption by up to 75% to meet international climate targets and avoid ecosystem collapse.
According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), reducing resource-intensive meat production will also help us to feed the 10 billion people expected to be living on our planet in the year 2050.
A separate study found that growing food exclusively for direct human consumption, rather than as animal feed and for biofuel production, could potentially increase available food calories by as much as 70%, which could feed an additional 4 billion people.
This latest study is from a team led by Catherine Ivanovich from Columbia University, New York, which creates new forecasts for greenhouse gas emissions from food production. It finds that food production alone could cause the average temperature on the planet to rise by 0.9 degrees centigrade. But 75%of this warming is driven by foods that are high sources of methane – ruminant meat, dairy and rice.
According to a report by the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, $300-350bn will be needed annually for action to transform our food systems whilst, currently, $528bn of public money is being spent on agricultural practices that can have harmful impacts on the environment and climate.
ProVeg’s multi-pronged approach is bringing about food system transformation
ProVeg International, with its mission to reduce animal consumption by 50% by 2040, is tackling the challenge of food system change through the following key approaches:
- The meat industry and livestock farmers are being encouraged to transition from meat and dairy production to alternative proteins through our data-driven Corporate Engagement.
- Policies that encourage the uptake of more plant-based diets rather than restrict them are being pushed by ProVeg at national, and international level, including at this year’s UN climate summit, COP28.
- Institutions, such as schools, are being provided with the training to deliver more plant-based meals, such as through our School Plates programme. Over 8 million meals have already been transformed from animal-based to plant-based or vegetarian in the past few years, with over 830,000 children in England and Scotland benefiting from healthier, planet-friendly, and tasty meals. The costs of the programme are relatively low, while the benefits are substantial.
- Start-ups are being funded to get their plant-based and cultivated meat products to market under our ProVeg Incubator programme.
- Over 500,000 individuals and teams have participated in the Veggie Challenge, with most continuing to reduce or eliminate animal-based foods after completing the engaging app-based 30-day programme.
“Where meat and dairy is concerned, we can act to bring down methane emissions through a transition towards a more plant-based diet and investing in other alternatives to animal products. But we need to act fast to downscale livestock production, rather than be swayed by arguments about making the meat industry a little bit “greener”,” de Boo said.
Notes to Editors
For media inquiries, including interview requests, email Peter Rixon at [email protected]
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.