The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization is planning to release an essential global food systems road map during the COP28 climate summit calling on the West to reduce its meat consumption. Here’s the full story

The Document

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This document, scheduled for publication in Dubai, aims to reform policies concerning the world’s food and agriculture sector. 

Cut Down Meat Consumption

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One of its most important recommendations involves urging the Western nations, including the United States, to substantially cut down on their meat consumption to combat greenhouse gas emissions. 

The Urgency

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Jeremy Coller, chair and founder of the FAIRR Initiative, shared the urgency of focusing on emissions within the food and agriculture sector. 

The Reason

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This sector accounts for a substantial portion of global greenhouse gas emissions, a staggering 40% of methane, and about a third of all emissions, stressing the critical need for policy intervention. 

Solutions to Tackle Climate Change

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“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.

The Guidelines

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Apart from supporting reduced meat consumption in Western countries, the FAO’s roadmap aims to provide guidelines for farmers to adapt to unpredictable weather patterns. 

It also focuses on addressing emissions, stopping food waste and fertilizer use.

Potential Policy Shifts

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Despite these recommendations being non-binding, they set the stage for potential policy shifts and signify an important withdrawal from previous UN climate conferences, which mainly centered on emissions from power, transportation, and manufacturing sectors. 

Agriculture’s Role

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The global food system’s carbon footprint is substantial, generating an estimated 18 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually. 

Livestock, in particular, contributes around 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

The UN has insistently supported the shift from animal-based diets to plant-based alternatives, sharing their significantly lower impact on the environment. 

The American Situation

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In the United States, agriculture accounts for approximately 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions but only 1.4% globally.

“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, told Fox News Digital.

Regulating Producers

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“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 continued.

Impact on Both Climate Change and Food Security

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However, there are concerns about regulating agricultural practices and the potential impact on both climate change and food security. 

Lawmakers shared the crucial role of American farmers and ranchers in global food supply chains, highlighting their contribution to reducing emissions and providing essential resources. 

The Controversies

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Recent discussions about agriculture’s contribution to emissions have generated controversy, especially regarding comments made by public figures such as President Biden’s special climate envoy, John Kerry. 

We Can’t Get To Net Zero

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Kerry said, “A lot of people have no clue that agriculture contributes about 33% of all the emissions of the world. We can’t get to net zero, we won’t get this job done unless agriculture is front and center as part of the solution. So all of us here understand the depths of this mission.”

Emissions From the Food System

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“Food systems themselves contribute a significant amount of emissions just in the way in which we do the things we’ve been doing,” he added.

“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,” he concluded.

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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Poetra.RH . The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.

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