The IPCC recently published a crucial report on the impacts of global warming of 1,5°C., including the roles that shifts in diet will play in achieving climate goals. ProVeg had a look at the inclusion of animal-related consumption in the report and summarised the key messages.
The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) plays an important role in providing a scientific view of climate change and its potential impacts. Through regular assessments of the latest knowledge, the intergovernmental organisation gives decision-makers the latest policy-relevant information.
The Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1,5 °C is one of the most important reports in the history of the IPCC. It points out the severity of climate change but also proposes possible solutions for an effective mitigation of climate change and adaptations to those changes which are now unavoidable. It defines the path to an effective Paris Agreement and provides crucial knowledge to the relevant decision-makers about the most effective solutions.
Report addresses plant-related diets
One of the major drivers of climate change is our food system, which contributes up to 29% of all greenhouse gases but at the same time contains huge mitigation opportunities1 2. Current and predicted future levels of the production and consumption of animal products make the achievement of the 1,5°C and 2°C goals fundamentally unrealistic. As such, the achievement of these goals will require a global shift in dietary habits.
ProVeg welcomes the inclusion of sustainable and healthy diets in the Special Report as part of cost-effective climate change mitigation measures. The Report acknowledges that shifts towards diets with a smaller share of animal-based calories present a crucial step in meeting the 1,5°Goal. The transition to healthier diets could contribute one-fifth of the mitigation needed to hold warming below 2°C, according to the IPCC. Research shows that worldwide adoption of a plant-based diet could reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions by up to 70% by 2050.3 This shows that shifts towards plant-based eating are a simple and effective measure in terms of making a positive impact on climate change.
A reduction in animal-based food commodities would not only reduce the burden on our climate but also free up valuable arable land that could be made available for crops grown for direct human consumption. Food justice and other substantial co-benefits, which also meet several Sustainable Development Goals, are recognised in the Special Report on 1,5°C. This would represent a crucial step towards global food security.
The United Nations must prioritise emissions from the global food system
Such a change should be encouraged through broad policy strategies aimed at reducing the production and consumption of animal products in industrialised societies, and limiting the move towards increased consumption of animal products in developing societies.
We call upon the member states of the United Nations to prioritise reducing emissions from the global food system. We urge all UN member states to address this issue during the international climate change negotiations and to take it into account when formulating their national climate action plans.
Words by Nico Nettelmann
- Vermeulen, S. J. et al. (2012): Climate Change and Food Systems. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 37, p.195–222
- Bajželj, B., J. M. Allwood & J. M. Cullen (2013): Designing Climate Change Mitigation Plans That Add Up. Environ Sci Technol. 47, p.8062–8069
- Springmann, M., H. C. J. Godfray, M. Rayner, et al. (2016): Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change. PNAS. 113, p.4146–4151