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Animal farming: a bigger EU climate crisis than automobiles

The rearing of livestock for meat and dairy is producing more total emissions right now than all vehicles on the road in the EU, according to new reports.

At Thred we’re constantly highlighting food reform as a key part of the fight to keep global temperatures from rising 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. With the potential to mitigate 20 percent of the global emission reduction needed by 2050, policy makers are being put under pressure to make wholesale changes as shocking reports continue to emerge from the agriculture industry.

The latest exposé arrives courtesy of Greenpeace, who’ve been shining a light on the impact of meat and dairy production. Based on data collected from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and peer-reviewed scientific research, Greenpeace has discovered that animal farming currently accounts for 17 percent of EU emissions and a staggering 502 million tons of CO2 per year. To put this into perspective, the automobile industry – which receives a ton of flack each year in the mainstream media – generates 14.5 percent.

From 2007 to 2018, yearly emissions from animal farming rose by 6 percent, which would’ve equated to adding roughly 8.4 million cars to European roads and sending 3 million commercial airliners on flights the whole circumference of the globe. With Europeans generally oblivious to the concept of carbon footprints and continuing to consume around 60 percent more meat, eggs, and dairy than dietary guidelines recommend, the numbers are only set to rise in future reports.

Outside of the EU, development banks are struggling to weigh environmental progress against humanitarian work and have compounded the climate issue by investing $2.6 billion in industrial farming to bring meat and dairy to impoverished communities.

More sustainable solutions from the food tech sector such as stem cell meat and synthetic vegetables may seem like the obvious answer because they’re less labour inducive, require less acreage, and are cheaper processes than rearing livestock. However, developing countries are lacking the technical expertise and scientific resources to implement them in a meaningful way.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement national leaders are expected to revise and resubmit their climate related progress every five years, and 2020 could mark the year that the EU enforces a bold new climate law. Ensuring that we have some tangible roadmap to making up the emission deficit by 2025, the committee has pledged to soon put an end to public subsidises for animal farming and instead to concentrate funds on dairy alternatives and considerably reducing the number of animals per farm.

Although we aren’t too keen to dig for silver linings during a global pandemic, industrial farming has been directly linked to the outbreak of Covid-19, which’ll only accelerate the mitigation efforts of policy makers.

An estimated 73% of all viruses emerge and are transmitted through livestock, and I’m sure people would much rather make sustainable revisions to their diets than deal with another pandemic in the foreseeable future.