A NEW report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change overnight focuses on how changes to land management can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Despite sparking a rash of new headlines claiming the report urges the world to eat less meat or even ‘to go vegetarian’, the report published online overnight does not mention meat.
The report does note that agriculture, forestry and other types of land use account for 23 percent of human greenhouse gas emissions.
It says that when land is allowed to become degraded it becomes less productive, restricts what can be grown and reduces the soil’s ability to absorb carbon.
“This exacerbates climate change, while climate change in turn exacerbates land degradation in many different ways,” the report says.
It says about one third of food that is produced is lost or wasted.
Reducing this loss and waste would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve food security.
“Some dietary choices require more land and water, and cause more emissions of heat-trapping gases than others,” said Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.
“Balanced diets featuring plant-based foods, such as coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and animal-sourced food produced sustainably in low greenhouse gas emission systems, present major opportunities for adaptation to and limiting climate change,” she said.
Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I, Panmao Zhai, said there is real potential here through more sustainable land use, reducing over-consumption and waste of food, eliminating the clearing and burning of forests, preventing over-harvesting of fuelwood, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, to address land related climate change issues.
Plant-based foods and sustainable animal-sourced food could free up several million square kilometres of land by 2050 and cut 0.7-8.0 gigatonnes a year of carbon dioxide equivalent, the report said.
Cattle Council of Australia president Tony Hegarty said red meat will continue to play a vital role in meeting global needs in terms of the demand for dietary protein, as well as the management of vast swathes of the Earth’s landmass and the conversion of inedible plants into protein suitable for human consumption.
“Australian beef in particular has compelling human health and environmental imperatives and will continue to form part of a balanced diet for Australians and our customers overseas. It can be difficult to communicate those credentials, but we’re committed to getting the message across effectively,” he said.
“Part of that effort is via the Red Meat Advisory Council’s Australian Beef Sustainability Framework, which measures and communicates the Australian beef industry’s commitment to environmental, social and economic sustainability.
“Since 1981, the Australian beef industry has reduced emission intensity by 14 per cent and reduced emissions due to land use change by 42 per cent.
“The industry is working hard to meet its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.”