Dr Tara Garnett (director of TABLE and fellow of the Oxford Martin School) in conversation with Dr Helena Wright, Dr Pablo Manzano and Dan Blaustein-Rejto, discuss livestock systems and greenhouse gas emissions. The food system generates around a third of human-made greenhouse gas emissions, with about half of these attributable to animal production; and yet food was markedly absent from official discussions at COP26.
This, for many analysts, represented not only a major climate-relevant omission but also a missed opportunity for reshaping the food system in ways that could achieve broader set of social, environmental and economic benefits.
That said, some of the major commitments agreed at the 2021 COP – notably around deforestation and methane – will, if implemented, require action from the livestock sector, and many activists are hoping that COP27 will see a far greater focus on livestock-related concerns than has been the case so far.
But what exactly is the livestock problem that needs to be addressed? For some, the ongoing trend towards large-scale, capital-intensive, high density livestock production is the major issue. For others, this trend towards intensification is to be welcomed, since, it is argued, they are far more environmentally efficient than the traditional, extensive and low yielding systems they replace. And then there is the question of appetite. Is our growing demand for meat a given, and the challenge a matter of meeting this demand at least environmental cost; or are robust policies needed to incentivise a shift towards more plant-based, lower impact diets? Is everyone actually missing the point, using overly simplistic metrics to assess the environmental goods and bads of livestock production, and in so doing failing to recognise the numerous ecological, social, economic and cultural benefits of certain livestock systems and the importance of foregrounding equity and food sovereignty in discussions about livestock?
Dr Tara Garnett (director of TABLE and fellow of the Oxford Martin School) in conversation with Dr Helena Wright, Policy Director at the FAIRR Initiative, Dr Pablo Manzano, Ikerbasque Research Fellow at the Basque Centre for Climate Change, and Dan Blaustein-Rejto, Director of Food and Agriculture at the Breakthrough Institute.
This is a joint event with TABLE and the Oxford Martin School