Animal welfare must be included in the COP26 agenda. We won’t accept excuses from our global leaders. Time is running out.
COP26 is the 26th United Nations (UN) climate change conference and this year is hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy. More than 200 countries will come together in Glasgow in November to work together to ‘increase climate ambition, build resilience and lower emissions.’
Yet, animal agriculture, which is responsible for an estimated 14.5-16.5% of greenhouse gas emissions, is glaringly absent from the upcoming COP26 summit agenda. That is why we’re urging you to march with us for the animals on 6th November at the COP26 coalition march.
In 2015, at COP21 in Paris, 184 countries pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 2030. Six years on and it is worryingly evident that some countries won’t reduce their emissions, while others will actually increase their emissions. In fact, former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, sir Robert Watson, advised that countries will need to double or triple their efforts to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. Indeed, it has been warned that COP26 is ‘the world’s best last chance to get runaway climate change under control.’
Animal agriculture & its environmental impact
15 years ago, the UN listed the ‘livestock’ sector as one of the top contributors to the ‘most serious’ environmental problems. It is a leading cause of habitat destruction, desertification, wildlife extinction, and ocean dead zones.
Around 85 per cent of the UK’s agricultural land is used for animal agriculture. This accounts for almost 50 per cent of the entire landmass of the UK, yet animal agriculture provides less than 20% of calories consumed.
Deforestation & wildlife extinction
Due to a growing global demand for meat, particular beef, millions of areas of uncultivated land, including forests, is being transformed into land for animal feed crops and grazing pastures. An estimated 3.5-7 billion trees are cut down each year and animal agriculture accounts for nearly 30% of these trees.
Around 70% of the Amazon rainforest has been cleared for the animal agriculture industry. The Amazon is home to over 3 million species of animals, which are at risk of endangerment and extinction as a result.
Ocean dead zones
A 2018 study found that ocean dead zones have quadrupled in the past 50 years Agricultural ‘runoff’, such as manure and fertiliser, is dumped into rivers and then enters the ocean. The ‘runoff’ includes nutrients that, in large quantities, suffocates marine life by lowering the amount of oxygen available.
It has been suggested that animal agriculture was responsible for the worst dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico- a dead zone roughly the size of New Jersey.
Where are we now?
Four years after listing animal agriculture as a top contributor to environmental problems, the UN urged the global population to adopt a vegan diet to save the world from the worst impacts of climate change. Yet, 11 years on, combating the emissions produced by animal agriculture isn’t even listed as one of the COP26 goals.
Countries are being asked to accelerate the phase out of coal as a top priority at the COP26 conference. But, even if the use of fossil fuel was ended immediately, the emissions produced by animal agriculture alone would make it impossible to limit warming to the 1.5°C COP26 target (Clark et al., 2020).
We have no time for government cop-outs when it comes to the impact of animal agriculture on our planet. Animal welfare must be central to climate change discussions and have a place on the COP26 agenda. Governments globally must also encourage the adoption of a plant-based diet.
How can I get involved?
On the 6th November we will be marching at the COP26 Coalition march to speak up for animals in the battle for our planet’s future. We would love you to join us. Get more details & sign up to join us here.