Why the UN didn’t include a meat-free climate plan?

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The UN Food and Agriculture Division has released a report on combating climate change. However, it does not mention switching to alternative proteins. Let’s find out why this is important

What’s the trend?

Global warming is an increase in the average temperature on Earth, the main cause of which is human activity. It has been observed since the end of the 19th century, and its speed is constantly increasing. If warming is not stopped, the planet will face negative consequences: some coastal cities will be flooded and disappear, there will be many more hungry people, and wars will break out over vital resources.

Therefore, the fight against global warming is a sustainable trend of our century. One of its aspects is changing the diet of residents of rich countries around the world.

Table of Contents

Criticism of the UN report

As part of the COP28 climate summit in December 2023, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) published the first part of a report on agricultural and food systems in the context of global warming. It recognizes that diets must change for the health of people and the planet. However, the 120 measures listed do not include reducing the amount of meat and dairy products in the diet. This is a necessary measure in countries where most people already consume unhealthy amounts of these products. Moreover, many of the FAO recommendations are aimed at improving the efficiency of livestock production methods.

A panel of academic experts in the journal Nature Food criticized the work for the lack of a selection methodology and list of authors in the FAO report. The scientists called for the next parts of the report to be more transparent. This is the only way to evaluate the recommendations, taking into account the results of numerous scientific studies that show that reducing meat consumption in rich countries will have a beneficial effect on the climate and human health.

Cleo Verkuijl, a researcher at the Stockholm Environment Institute and one of the authors of the Nature Food paper, said : “It is striking that the FAO is not using one of the most obvious measures that would help achieve environmental and health goals. It is also very surprising that the report completely ignores alternative proteins. They have been shown to have a much lower environmental impact than conventional meat.”

Harm from livestock farming

In October 2023, the British publication The Guardian published statements by former FAO employees. They shared that the organization’s leadership had censored reports that methane released by livestock was a major factor in climate change.

Humanity faces the challenge of staying within global warming limits of 1.5°C above pre-Industrial Revolution temperatures. Scientists have proven that this climate goal cannot be achieved without major changes in food production. Industrial animal agriculture produces between 12 and 20% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. The industry uses 83% of the planet’s agricultural land to provide about 20% of the calories in the average human diet.

Reply to criticism

The FAO said the Nature Food article “does not do justice to the report and its ideas.” David Laborde, director of the FAO’s agri-food division, rejected the article’s criticism: “While we stress the importance of changing diets from the front page, we note that this issue is often overlooked.” In fact, such measures appear eight times in the report’s 50 pages, but reducing meat or dairy consumption is not mentioned.

Laborde also added: “Diet changes should not be overly simplistic but should be based on science and evidence. The report does not reject alternative proteins; we simply believe that relying on one miracle solution to the problem is unrealistic.”

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