GFI helps make the case for plant-based and clean meat at UN Climate Conference

The way we currently produce meat causes more climate change than the emissions from every single plane, train, and automobile. And yet changing meat production is too infrequently mentioned in discussions of how to mitigate climate change.
Cars surrounded by pollution

What would you think of a plan to address climate change that completely ignores automobiles, airplanes, trucks, and ships?

Doesn’t seem like a great plan.

The way we produce meat currently causes more climate change than the emissions from every single plane, train, and automobile. And yet changing the way we produce meat is too infrequently mentioned in discussions of how to mitigate climate change.

Case in point: even at the current United Nations’ COP 24 Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland, the menu is meat-heavy and anything but climate-friendly.

Fortunately, the tide might be turning. Several environmental groups have called out the conference for failing to set a good example. Widely picked-up articles by Bloomberg and the Associated Press have weighed in on just how harmful the conference menu is.

And it isn’t just outside environmental groups noting the importance of changing the way we produce meat. Take Tony Colman for example. Tony was a Member of Parliament in the UK from 1997-2005. Now he focuses on food and climate change with UN institutions, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organisation.

He recognizes the importance of moving to plant-based and clean meat (PBCM) to help mitigate climate change, reduce environmental degradation, extend the lives of life-saving antibiotics, and improve food security.

(Want an example of just how much better plant-based meat is? Check out this life cycle assessment by the University of Michigan. GFI will be working to create estimated life cycle assessments for clean meat in the near future.)

While attending the Katowice Conference, Tony reached out to GFI’s Director of Science and Technology Dr. David Welch to help develop a statement to share with his fellow attendees. We are happy to share this statement with you below. It is a useful, succinct overview each of us can share in any context where climate change and other issues allow us to make the case for plant-based and clean meat.

Industrial animal agriculture is a major threat to global sustainability on several fronts. It displaces half the wild ecosystems on Earth and consumes half of America’s crops. Deforestation and feed crop production for industrial farms are leading contributors to climate change. Current meat production causes more climate change than the emissions from every plane, train, and automobile in the world, combined, and United Nations’ scientists state that raising and killing animals for food is “one of the major causes of the world’s most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air, and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.”

Fertilizers and manure from feed crops and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are the primary contributors to water pollution, rural air pollution, and foodborne illness in the United States. And the release of antibiotic-resistant bacteria from CAFOs are leading to a global medical crisis. 

More efficient, less polluting, and safer food systems are needed to provide healthy food to a growing population. Innovative new ways of producing meat have arrived. Plant-based and clean meat ease food’s impacts on land use and climate change and eliminate the spread of pollution and disease from concentrated animal wastes. These products should be a part of every country’s plan to scale up our global response to climate change.

Though the global conversation around climate change has a long way to go before the food system is recognized as the challenge and opportunity that it is, key voices are increasingly bringing dietary patterns to the fore. The need to add plant-based and clean meat as critical tools to humanity’s toolbox has never been more critical.