Small wins in COP27, but much bigger changes are still needed
This year’s annual COP27 hosted in Sharm el-Shaikh, Egypt, touched on the many factors contributing to concerning climate change across the globe with small successes in Net Zero planning, biodiversity, and renewable energy. Unfortunately, farming systems and general animal welfare remain widely ignored or unspoken of.
World Animal Protection attended COP27 throughout, calling on countries to commit to transition to sustainable food systems, most specifically drawing attention to:
- the significance of agricultural emissions to the climate emergency;
- that factory farming accounts for a high proportion of agricultural emissions;
- and committing to end deforestation to grow animal feed, including shifting to plant-based diets which is crucial to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The final text on agriculture represents a small step forward, recognising the need for sustainable food systems, for climate action in relation to agriculture and the emphasis on food security.
But the world’s largest agri-food companies linked to widespread destruction of forests and contributing significantly to emissions, promised much but failed to deliver adequate business strategies to align with the 1.5°C climate target.
World Animal Protection’s Director of External Engagement, Kelly Dent, said:
“One bright spot in these crucial but otherwise frustrating climate negotiations has been the strong demand of civil society to include food systems in the debate through the presence of several food pavilions, numerous side events and a dedicated Agriculture Day putting food systems well and truly on the radar of the world leaders charged with saving our planet.
“The momentum for the inclusion of agriculture and food systems in future discussions is now irreversible, though much more needs to be done to move it where it needs to be – near the top of the agenda.
“A number of new countries did sign the methane pledge. But this commitment doesn’t cover the biggest sectoral source of methane emissions – livestock farming.
“Without bold action, even if fossil fuel emissions were eliminated immediately, emissions from the global food system alone would make it impossible to limit warming to 1.5°C.”
“This is a concern because it gives big meat producers carte blanche to continue to destroy and clear natural habitat for factory farmed animal feed crops.
“And though high emitting companies such as JBS committed to the agriculture sector roadmap – but they did not, as demanded by civil society and activists, come clean on the true levels of their emissions and the impact of their deforestation.”
World Animal Protection distributed our recent report, Climate Change and Cruelty report, which demonstrates higher welfare farming for pigs consequently emits less methane. The report also reveals the true extent of unsustainable deforestation caused by factory farming companies, like JBS, where deforestation to grow feed crops – especially soya – for global trade is considered. This farming doubles the overall climate change impact of factory farmed meat in EU member, the Netherlands, alone.
More shocking truths from the Climate Change and Cruelty Report include:
- The four biggest factory farming markets of the world are China, Brazil, US and Europe.
- Meat consumption rates in 2020 for the four-factory farming hot spots are already high with Europeans consuming around 33kg of pork per person per year and 23kg of chicken. Brazilians eat 41kg of chicken and 12kg of pork each year, US eats 23kg of pork and 50kg of chicken and in China, pork is the most consumed meat, with 26kg per person and 14kg of chicken.
- In these factory farming hot spots, the emissions from factory farmed chicken alone is almost the same to driving 29 million cars for a year in the UK.
- A million kilograms of factory farmed chicken need almost 4.3 million square metres of land dedicated to animal feed, while a million kilograms of factory farmed pork needs around 5.8 million square metres of land dedicated to animal feed. That’s around the size of 672 - 906 football fields which is an area that can accommodate up to1.45 million trees.
- Animal feed production is the dominant contributor to factory farming’s climate impact. For every 100 calories of crops fed to farmed animals, only 17 - 30 calories end up feeding people. Meat and dairy provide only 18% of overall calories and 37% of protein for humans, but they use 83% of farmland. This demonstrates it is far better to grow crops that feed humans directly through mostly plant-based diets.
- By 2040, China’s per person annual consumption of chicken is expected to have increased from current levels to 15kg and pork to 31kg. Increases in chicken consumption are also expected in Brazil, US and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) four countries at 43kg, 53kg and 25kg respectively. For pork, consumption may reach 13kg for Brazil, 24kg for the US and 32kg for OECD countries.
- Further, pork and chicken consumption result in notable increases in climate and environmental impacts. By reducing pork per person by 50%, by 2040 we would see a 41% decrease from pork consumption in China, 54% for the EU, 44% for Brazil and 43% for the US13.
World Animal Protection worked alongside official partner Food4Climate on Friday, 11th of November to explain the true impact of industrial factory farming, contributing to the first ever day at COP dedicated solely to agriculture. As result, a cover decision text gave mention to the importance of transitioning to sustainable lifestyles and patterns of consumption.
Other notable outcomes include new countries signing the Global Methane Pledge – having grown from just over 100 last year to 150 – and the passing of a new mandate for further workshops on climate action on agriculture and food security.
While we may celebrate the small successes from this year's COP, there is much, much more work to be done in our consideration of global food systems.
World Animal Protection continues to call on governments to publicly acknowledge the carbon footprint of factory farming and publicly back the call for a moratorium on factory farming.
To learn more on factory farming and its impact on climate change, read World Animal Protection’s full report here.
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Without bold action, even if fossil fuel emissions were eliminated immediately, emissions from the global food system alone would make it impossible to limit warming to 1.5°C.