The importance of reducing animal product consumption and wasted food in mitigating catastrophic climate change

The importance of reducing animal product consumption and wasted food in mitigating catastrophic climate change

Globally about 30 percent of the food supply is never eaten. If all the world’s food losses and waste (wasted food) were represented as a country, it would be the third highest GHG emitter, after China and the United States. Additionally, food decomposing in landfills generates significant quantities of methane. Animal products are wasted at relatively low rates (13 percent of global food waste by volume) compared to other foods, but due to their high emissions intensity, account for roughly one‐third of GHG emissions associated with food waste.

This report, prepared in advance of the United Nations Conference of the Parties 21 (COP21) in Paris, reviews the scientific literature on the roles of reducing animal product consumption and wasted food in meeting climate change mitigation targets.

Key findings:

  • if global trends in meat and dairy intake continue, global mean temperature rise will more than likely exceed 2° C, even with dramatic emissions reductions across non‐agricultural sectors
  • immediate and substantial reductions in wasted food and meat and dairy intake, particularly ruminant meat (e.g., beef and lamb), are imperative to mitigating catastrophic climate change
  • the urgency of these interventions is not represented in negotiations for climate change mitigation
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