For Immediate Release, December 4, 2019


Stephanie Feldstein, Center for Biological Diversity, (734) 395-0770,
Mia MacDonald, Brighter Green, (917) 626-8702,
Caroline Wimberly, Food and Climate Alliance, (404) 660 2372, (at the UN climate conference in Madrid)

Leaders at Climate Summit Urged to Reduce Greenhouse Pollution From Food, Agriculture

MADRID, Spain— The Center for Biological Diversity, Brighter Green and 13 other organizations today released a policy brief calling on organizers and attendees of the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change conference COP25 to take immediate action to reduce planet-warming emissions from food and agriculture.

In the brief the groups outlined five key actions: providing technical assistance for countries to include food and agriculture in emissions reduction targets; promoting sustainable diets and food production in climate and development policies; internalizing the costs of livestock production and ending tax subsidies for feed crops; aligning efforts across government departments to address meat and dairy production as well as consumption; and shifting procurement to prioritize purchasing low-impact foods.

“The climate policy agenda is lagging well behind the growing body of research that agrees the world cannot meet the Paris targets without serious reductions in GHGs from food and agriculture, and we need leadership from COP25 negotiators in supporting real policy action,” said Mia MacDonald, executive director at Brighter Green. “The climate emergency demands bold, visionary thinking — and doing — and there are many concrete pathways to support equitable, climate-compatible food systems that protect the rights and lives of billions of people and non-human animals.”

The livestock sector alone accounts for at least 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It is projected that demand for animal products will increase 70% by 2050. Studies have shown that it will not be possible to meet global climate targets without reducing meat and dairy consumption and production.

Yet the need to tackle the overconsumption of animal-based foods has been largely absent from international climate negotiations and commitments. The majority of food-related efforts focus on improving production practices with few or no significant targets for shifting to less climate-intensive diets.

“It’s appalling that world leaders continue to ignore the cow in the room as we literally watch the world burn for overproduction of meat and dairy,” said Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We can’t wait for the next generation to fix the climate and extinction emergencies. We need to transform our food system now.”

The call for action was prepared by Brighter Green and Center for Biological Diversity, in partnership with the Food and Climate Alliance and endorsed by 50by40, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, Compassion in World Farming, Farm Forward, Feedback, Health Care Without Harm, Humane Society International, ICLEI, Israeli Forum for Sustainable Nutrition, ProVeg International, Vegetarianos Hoy and World Animal Protection.

“Climate change is our world’s biggest threat, and intensive animal farming is among the biggest contributors,” said Joe Loria, meat reduction campaign manager at World Animal Protection. “It’s crucial that world leaders take immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food and agriculture.”

“We are in a climate emergency and reducing the production and consumption of animal products has become more urgent than ever,” said Raphael Podselver, international political outreach officer at ProVeg International. “We urge policymakers to swiftly implement concrete measures to facilitate a shift toward sustainable and less resource-intensive food systems.”

“The ultimate goal of the food system must be to support environmental regeneration and nurture human health,” said Carina Millstone, executive director at Feedback. “It currently threatens both. The quality and weight of the evidence justify radical and immediate policy action on food waste, sustainable diets and extractive forms of industrial agriculture.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Brighter Green is a public policy action tank that works to raise awareness of and encourage policy action on issues that span the environment, animals and sustainability.