To be a leader in combating climate change, President Biden must call for a just transition away from intensive livestock production, which is only achievable by reducing meat consumption.
President Biden has invited 40 world leaders to a virtual Leaders Summit on Climate on Earth Day, April 22, to re-establish the United States leadership in the global effort to address climate change and underscore the urgency of stronger climate action. The Biden-Harris administration stated that the event would be a “key milestone on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference,” otherwise known as COP26, scheduled to be held in Glasgow this November.
While conversations around investing in clean energy, electric vehicles, and other sustainable initiatives are expected, President Biden must include a just transition for the food system on the agenda. The world cannot meet the Paris Agreement’s goals – which the US recently rejoined under the Biden-Harris administration – without addressing emissions from the food system, particularly the livestock and feed sector. The US’s role in emissions from this sector cannot be understated.
According to the United Nations, livestock production contributes at least 14.5% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, mainly in methane and nitrous oxide. A significant portion of these emissions are from the enormous volumes of soy, corn, and other crops produced, processed, and traded to feed the billions of farmed animals globally. Sadly, global agreements aimed at tackling climate change place no obligations on countries to include agriculture in national inventories or mitigation plans. By failing to address the climate impacts of livestock production, world leaders, including President Biden, will fall short on promises and policy.
For the United States – one of the countries that consumes the most meat – to be a leader in combating climate change, President Biden must call for a just transition away from intensive livestock production, which is only achievable by reducing meat consumption. A just transition would ensure that bringing the population of farmed animals to within planetary boundaries and emissions agreements is accomplished in a way that protects local economies and food security. World Animal Protection is urging the Biden-Harris administration to take necessary policy measures to achieve this and working with world leaders to create a more sustainable, equitable, just, and humane food system.