EU to Miss Vital Climate Targets Unless it Curtails Factory Farming

By Tyler, Global Vegans

By Tyler, Global Vegans

The European Union (EU) is not on track to meet its 2030 climate action targets, a recent report has revealed. The report, which analyses greenhouse gas emissions trends, shows that the EU’s carbon emissions are not declining drastically enough to achieve its revised goal of a 55% reduction by 2030 in comparison to 1990 rates.1

Despite this, the EU has done nothing to promote the myriad research-backed environmental benefits of a vegan diet. The bloc’s heavy reliance on animal agriculture is responsible for the majority of its carbon emissions, yet governments are still focusing on renewable energy and the transport sector instead of promoting plant-based nutrition.

There can only be economic motivations behind the EU’s failure to condemn meat and dairy production, as the figures detailing the industry’s environmental impact speak for themselves.

In 2018, it was found that the carbon emissions released by EU and UK livestock farms exceeded 700 million tonnes a year when combined with indirect emissions, such as those released by the deforestation and land changes required to grow farmyard feed. This figure is significantly higher than the 656 million tonnes of CO2 caused by every van and car in the EU.2

Even in the face of these figures, the EU’s reliance on animal agriculture doesn’t appear to be waning. Between 2007 and 2018, it was reported that meat and dairy production in EU countries increased by 9.5% - approximately 8.4 million cars’ worth of carbon emissions.3 The increase in intensive factory farming can be traced back to widespread demand for cheap and readily accessible meat: a demand which sees animals treated as commodities and slaughtered using abhorrent and environmentally harmful practices.

As the EU continues to put profit over the planet, the risk of it missing its climate reduction targets becomes increasingly high.

Currently, it is predicted that emissions will reduce by 36% in total,4 which is 4% less than the EU’s initial goal of 40% and 19% less than its revised proposal of 55%. The EU’s 40% target was modified just last year in line with its overarching goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 - another target that is slipping further and further away.

The seriousness of meeting the pledges set out by the Paris Agreement cannot be underestimated. The EU’s commitment to reducing its carbon emissions is part of a global effort to keep temperatures between 1.5-2°C, which leading climate scientists have said is crucial to preventing irreversible ecological damage.

In 2018, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a landmark report corroborating this fear and placing further emphasis on the importance of tackling global warming.5 The report, which claims we have less than a decade to avoid global warming-related disasters, means that achieving the Paris Agreement’s pledge to keep temperatures between 1.5-2°C is vital.

If the EU does not act quickly to significantly reduce the greenhouse gasses released by its agricultural industry, then meeting these essential targets will simply not be possible. The short and long-term impact of this could be catastrophic, specifically for economically developing countries where poverty rates are highest.

The environmental devastation caused by the meat industry is well-documented, but global dairy production is also responsible for a huge proportion of greenhouse gas emissions, with a 2020 study finding that the emissions from just 13 dairy companies equalled those of the whole of the UK.6

To meet its climate reduction targets and make tangible change, the EU must reevaluate its reliance upon dairy. Yet, the European Parliament is blatantly disregarding its latest opportunity to do so by considering a ban on using words such as ‘milk’ and ‘cheese’ to describe plant-based food products - a move criticised by climate activist Greta Thunberg.7

Speaking on the issue, Greenpeace’s EU spokesperson John Hyland said: "The proposed ban on terms like 'oat milk' or 'soy yoghurt' is about one thing only – maintaining Europe's overconsumption of industrially produced dairy, which scientists warn us is a disaster for nature and the climate.

Tackling its reliance upon animal agriculture is vital if the EU is to stand by its Paris Agreement claims, but promoting a vegan diet and tightening meat and dairy production isn’t just about protecting the environment. Rearing, transporting and slaughtering animals for human consumption is nothing short of morally repugnant, and more must be done to tackle the EU’s involvement in this deplorable trade.

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References

1. "Total Greenhouse Gas Emission Trends And Projections In Europe", European Environment Agency, 2020 <https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/greenhouse-gas-emission-trends-7/assessment> [Accessed 1 March 2021].

2. Fiona Harvey, "EU's Farm Animals 'Produce More Emissions Than Cars And Vans Combined'", The Guardian, 2020 <https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/22/eu-farm-animals-produce-more-emissions-than-cars-and-vans-combined-greenpeace> [Accessed 2 March 2021].

3. Harvey, 2020.

4. European Environment Agency, 2020.

5. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Global Warming Of 1.5 ºC <https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/> [Accessed 1 March 2021].

6. Jordan Strickler, "Report Says Top 13 Dairy Companies Have As Many Emissions United Kingdom", Forbes, 2020 <https://www.forbes.com/sites/jordanstrickler/2020/06/16/report-says-top-13-dairy-companies-have-as-many-emissions-united-kingdom/?sh=538b66c23226> [Accessed 2 March 2021].

7. Harry Cockburn, "Greta Thunberg Attacks EU Plan To Ban ‘Dairy’-Terms From Plant-Based Alternatives", The Independent, 2021 <https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/dairy-vegan-eu-laws-labelling-b1806710.html> [Accessed 2 March 2021].

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