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The decision to not include a reduction in meat consumption in the UN's climate plan is puzzling.
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The decision to not include a reduction in meat consumption in the UN’s climate plan is puzzling.

Academic experts find it “bewildering” that the UN roadmap to address the climate crisis and eliminate hunger does not include plans for reducing meat consumption.

The organization was also criticized for their report by the group, which stated that it disregarded the potential of alternative proteins, such as plant-based meat, to lessen the impact that livestock has on the environment.

According to an article in the journal Nature Food, specialists expressed concern and surprise over the FAO’s omission of a methodology for choosing the 120 supported actions and a list of authors.

The experts and the FAO have requested for future phases of the roadmap to have greater transparency, allowing for proper evaluation of its suggestions in light of numerous scientific findings that reducing meat consumption in wealthier countries could have positive impacts on the environment and human well-being. The FAO has stated that the experts’ publication did not adequately analyze the report and its proposals.

During the month of October, reports from ex FAO employees were brought to light by the Guardian, stating that the organization’s administration censored and devalued their efforts to address the significant role of methane emissions from livestock in contributing to global warming. Scientific research has demonstrated that unless significant alterations are made to food production methods, the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels will not be achievable. It is estimated that animal agriculture is responsible for 12%-20% of total worldwide greenhouse gas emissions and uses 83% of farmland to produce only 18% of the world’s caloric intake.

The roadmap by FAO was released during the Cop28 climate conference in December and acknowledges the need for dietary changes to improve both human and planetary well-being. However, out of the 120 suggested actions, there is no mention of decreasing meat and dairy consumption in countries where it is already excessive. Instead, the focus is on enhancing the productivity of animal farming methods.

Cleo Verkuijl, one of the eight authors of a commentary from academic institutions in the US, the Netherlands, and Brazil, points out that the FAO is missing an obvious solution to achieve both environmental and health goals.

The experts were taken aback by the FAO’s blatant disregard for alternative proteins. Despite evidence showing their lower environmental impact compared to traditional meats, the FAO baselessly accused plant-based meats of having nutritional shortcomings.

According to a report released by the UN Environment Programme (Unep) in December, exploring substitutions for animal-based products like meat and dairy has the potential to greatly reduce the environmental impact of the world’s food system.

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Prof Matthew Hayek, a fellow author from New York University, stated that the FAO did not provide any evidence or specific techniques to support their assertion that making small changes to animal farming practices is enough to achieve our climate objectives.

“The food systems face numerous challenges in the coming decades, and it is essential to address them effectively. These challenges include the need to increase food production while reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions, as well as promoting healthier diets while decreasing the risks of diseases, foodborne illnesses, and pandemics,” stated the speaker. “Reducing the consumption of animal products can significantly impact these challenges in a positive way. It is bewildering to ignore this major opportunity for co-benefits in terms of climate, food security, and health, and the reasons for dismissing it are unclear.”

The report from FAO has been criticized by experts for its lack of mention of the “One Health” approach, which emphasizes the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health. This is surprising, considering FAO’s involvement in a joint effort with the World Health Organization, World Organisation for Animal Health, and Unep to promote and implement this approach.

The authors stated that certain actions suggested in the FAO roadmap, such as shifting from beef to chicken and increasing animal farming intensity, may uphold or potentially escalate the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance and/or zoonotic diseases.

The plan recognizes these potential risks and suggests that we can improve productivity without causing harmful effects caused by keeping large numbers of animals in one place and using antibiotics excessively. However, the authors admit that this could be difficult to achieve and propose switching to a more plant-based diet as a promising solution.

David Laborde, the director of the FAO’s agrifood economics and policy division, rejected the article’s criticism. “We stress the importance of dietary shifts from the first pages of the report, underscoring how this issue is often overlooked.” Dietary change is mentioned eight times in the 50-page summary report but reducing meat or dairy consumption is not mentioned.

He stated that altering diets should not be overly simplified, but rather, rooted in scientific findings and evidence. It is crucial to note that meat is just one aspect of the development of diets and solely focusing on it is unproductive.

Laborde stated that the report did not disregard alternative proteins, emphasizing that relying on a single solution to address the issue is not practical. He also mentioned that the full version of the report, which has not been made available online, includes a methodology, a list of authors, and the term “One Health.”

Source: theguardian.com