Dairy cows

Environment Council publishes Conclusions on COP27

The pivotal role of the livestock sector in climate change mitigation and adaptation cannot be overlooked


BRUSSELS, 25 October 2022 – EU environment ministers have approved Council conclusions on the EU’s mandate for the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) following its ENVI meeting on the 24th of October.  

Although the Conclusions welcome the reform of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) with its potential to contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as the EU’s determination to support the outcomes of the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA), they fail to address the specific role of livestock farming. Considering that livestock farming is responsible for at least 16.5% of total GHG emissions, FOUR PAWS urges EU governments to address this issue in more depth when it comes to addressing climate change and take bold action to target overconsumption of animal-based products. 

The KJWA is a critical platform to bring agriculture into the climate change discussions under the UNFCCC. It has been put into place for countries to make sure that agricultural development ensures both food security and emissions reduction in the face of climate change. The joint work addresses livestock as one of the six dimensions of climate change across the agricultural sectors. However, it does not yet address consumption side issues. 

“Over 80 billion farm animals are farmed for human consumption. As well as their immense suffering, this has an enormous negative impact on the climate as their digestion and waste release of greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide. Land use and land change required to produce feed for animals is also responsible for carbon dioxide emissions and is turning major carbon sinks into carbon sources. 

“If the livestock sector were to continue with business as usual, this sector alone would account for 49% of the emissions budget for 1·5°C by 2030[2], requiring other sectors to reduce emissions beyond a realistic or planned level.” 

Sophie Aylmer, Head of Policy for Farm Animals and Nutrition at FOUR PAWS

Implementing climate-friendly food and agricultural production system should go hand in hand with promoting sustainable consumption practices. 

Aylmer adds that “By shifting to a plant-rich diet we can spare animals from unnecessary suffering and support the transition to more extensive, outdoor farming systems, with fewer animals. The science is clear: nutritious, plant-rich diets present multiple co-benefits and play a critical role in improving human health, protecting the environment and safeguarding food security.” 

Governments in the Global North, where overconsumption of animal-based products is prevalent, have a particular responsibility to make change. FOUR PAWS is calling on the EU to work with other parties and use the opportunity of COP27 to mark a new chapter in the work of KJWA to take a food systems approach to its work. First steps could include an assessment of how policy influences dietary patterns and what specific actions governments should take to implement concrete, science-based and meaningful measures that will enable people to make more sustainable, healthy food choices.   

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