If global temperatures rise 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, dangerous environmental changes will become irreversible. To prevent climate change, governments around the world have taken steps to achieve net zero emissions before the global temperature hits that breaking point. New research shows that eating vegan and promoting plant-based food systems will be the most effective method of stopping climate change in its tracks.
After pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, countries like Canada have fallen behind on their sustainable development goals. Canadians can help the country successfully meet its 2030 climate goals by reducing their consumption of animal meat by 50%, according to a report by World Animal Protection and Navius Research.
The report highlights how animal agriculture will prevent Canada from meeting its sustainability goals due to significant greenhouse gas emissions. Canada’s Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40-45% by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050. The report finds that to reach zero net emission, Canadians will have to reduce their meat consumption by 80% .
“As the agricultural sector faces the challenge of decarbonization, there is an increasing availability of alternative meat and dairy products on the market, as well as a growing awareness of the health and environmental benefits. environment of abandoning the consumption of animal plant-based foods,” the report states. “Shifting agricultural production from animal-based foods to plant-based foods may impact emissions in this sector due to the emissions-intensive nature of animal agriculture.”
World Animal Protection also highlights how reducing meat consumption will make Canada’s sustainability goals more profitable in the long term. The report shows that if animal consumption in Canada is lower, sustainability initiatives will cost 11% less. The agricultural sector will need $4.6 billion and $12.5 billion less in 2030 and 2050 respectively.
The environmental dangers of animal agriculture
To examine how to minimize greenhouse gas emissions, organizations used a custom program based on Navius’ existing energy-saving model, gTech. The model helps to simulate the effects of energy and climate policy on greenhouse gas emissions, energy and technology to determine the effectiveness of climate policies. The organizations analyzed three scenarios where Canada successfully achieves its sustainability goals.
“The findings of this report should be a wake-up call to governments and Canadians,” Lynn Kavanagh, agricultural campaign manager for World Animal Protection Canada, said in a statement. “Our diets are largely something we can control and by switching to a more sustainable plant-based diet, we can all do our part to achieve a net zero society.”
The report highlights how shifting demand from animal-based foods to plant-based foods will alleviate stress on the environment and climate change. Since plant-based agriculture produces fewer emissions than its animal-based counterpart, adopting a plant-based diet in Canada could help save the planet. In the report’s reduced animal consumption model, emissions from agriculture are 13 and 29 percent lower in 2030 and 2050, respectively.
“If future animal consumption is low, the resulting emission reductions may be sufficient, combined with the implementation of Canada’s ERP (Emissions Reduction Plan) policies, to enable Canada to meet its 2030 emissions,” the report says. “There are other environmental benefits of this change, beyond the impact on GHG emissions, which are not explored in this analysis, including land and water use, biodiversity and the pandemic risk.”
World Animal Protection stressed that the Government of Canada must promote a plant-based campaign to achieve these goals. The report notes that the government should recognize the livestock industry as a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
Plant-based foods are key to fighting climate change
This month, a report from the University of Oxford found that meat products are up to 10 times more harmful to the environment than their plant-based counterparts. The study found that meat-rich diets contribute to environmentally hazardous production industries.
This report echoes previously established estimates that nearly 60% of food-related greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to meat production. The heavy reliance on animal products is accelerating the adverse effects of climate change. Over the past year, weather-related disasters, including severe thunderstorms and scorching heat waves, have intensified around the world.
The third UN IPCC report says the world still has time to stop climate change. By adopting a plant-based diet, consumers can help support their country’s sustainability initiatives. However, unless governments help promote plant-based food industries, the detrimental effects of meat production will present massive impasses for governments and sustainability campaigns.
For more planetary news, check out The Beet’s environmental stories.