- The UN is expected to call upon the West to reduce red meat consumption
- Data shows that countries like China are larger contributors to global emissions
- READ MORE: Blow to veganism? Nutrient in beef and dairy helps fight cancer
The UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced it will publish a road map with global food recommendations during its COP28 climate summit in Dubai, which starts Thursday and lasts two weeks.
In a first-of-its-kind document, the agency will call upon nations that ‘over-consume meat’ to limit consumption to reduce greenhouse emissions.
It will also issue guidelines on how farmers can adapt to ‘erratic weather’ and reduce emissions from food waste and fertilizer.
However, the US agriculture industry only accounts for 1.4 percent of global emissions and 10 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.
Critics of US green policies often point out that countries like China have produced more greenhouse gasses than all of the world’s other developed nations combined.
China is the world’s second-largest polluter even when emissions going back to 1850 are taken into account, new figures have shown, rebutting Beijing’s insistence that the West is ‘historically responsible’ for the climate crisis
Meat consumption in the US has largely been to blame for the climate crisis, but data suggests cutting it would not have a significant impact
The UN guidance is a recommendation and is not legally binding, much like the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are released every five years.
Kaveh Zahedi, director of the FAO Office of Climate Change, said: ‘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.’
A 2021 study from Nature Food Journal found that the global food system generates 18 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year – one-third of total worldwide emissions. Livestock is responsible for about 14.5 percent of global emissions.
The UN and other agencies have long called for ditching red meat and swapping to vegetarian or vegan diets to prevent climate change.
In 2021, food and climate experts told DailyMail.com that the US will have to drastically reduce its meat consumption to meet President Biden’s benchmark of slashing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030.
Brent Kim, a Maryland-based expert at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future, said at the time: ‘To avoid the most catastrophic climate change scenarios, the evidence is clear that citizens in high-meat consuming countries – such as the United States – need to dramatically reduce their meat and dairy intake,’ he said.
Data from the UN has shown that beef is the largest food contributor to greenhouse gas emissions
Beef is also the biggest source of protein responsible for greenhouse gas emissions
Studies have also suggested that cutting out red meat could reduce the impact of climate change.
A September study published in Nature Communications found that going 50 percent vegan would reduce agriculture and land use, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 31 percent by 2050.
Study co-author Eva Wollenberg of the University of Vermont said: ‘Given the magnitude of benefits we show from substituting meat with plant-based alternatives for global sustainability, climate action, and human health, this research provides important food for thought for consumers, food producers, and policymakers.’
Meat-heavy diets require larger-scale agricultural operations, including dedicating more land to livestock. This involves cutting down trees to make space, which releases carbon dioxide into the environment.
Animals like cows also produce methane, which decreases air quality. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a single cow produces between 154 and 264 pounds of methane every year.
However, data tracing carbon emissions back to 1850 found that even though Western nations bear ‘historic responsibility’ for the climate crisis, China is directly behind the US as the world’s second-largest polluter.
Additionally, an analysis from research firm Rhodium Group in tandem with Breakthrough Energy found that in 2019, China produced more greenhouse gases than all of the world’s other developed nations put together.
In May, researchers from the University of California, Davis, published a study that showed that lab-grown meat – which is designed to fight climate change and not kill animals – is up to 25 times worse for the climate than beef.
‘Currently, animal cell-based meat products are being produced at a small scale and at an economic loss, however companies are intending to industrialize and scale-up production,’ the researchers wrote.
‘Results indicate that the environmental impact of near-term animal cell-based meat production is likely to be orders of magnitude higher than median beef production if a highly refined growth medium is utilized.’
These findings suggest that ditching red meat might not provide substantial improvements to global emissions.
There have also been debates about if plant-based meat is healthier than red meat. It’s long been shown that over-consumption of red meat is linked to a greater risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity.
However, a May report by the FAO that analyzed 500 studies found that animal food sources are healthier than plant-based varieties because they offer ‘crucial sources of much-needed nutrients, including protein, fat, carbs, iron, calcium, and zinc.
Additionally, a study published last week in the journal Nature found that a molecule in beef and dairy called Trans-vaccenic acid (TVA) helped cancer patients respond better to treatment.
The exact guidelines that the UN is expected to release are not yet clear.