COP26: Eating away at climate change with negative emissions

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» COP26: Eating away at climate change with negative emissions

Today is World Vegan Day, marking the founding of The Vegan Society and millennia of work to avoid all human harm to non-human animals. Our vision is a world in which all animals live and thrive freely in their chosen habitats.  
Yesterday, we wrote about how Global North countries urgently need to reform our food and farming systems as a key part of our climate change actions. 
We know we cannot keep global temperature rises below 1.5° C unless the Global North quickly cuts GHG emissions in every sector, including food and farming.  

Worse, the Global North has already emitted far more than our total fair share of the greenhouse gases (GHG) which Earth’s climate can tolerate.    

By comparing our full history of just carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in excess of our planetary boundaries, the economic anthropologist Dr Jason Hickel, Senior Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, has estimated that:  

“As of 2015, the USA was responsible for 40% of excess global CO2 emissions. The European Union (EU-28) was responsible for 29%. The G8 nations (the USA, EU-28, Russia, Japan, and Canada) were together responsible for 85%. .. The Global North was responsible for 92%.”  

This is just for carbon dioxide, not taking into account the other major GHGs. This therefore means, we in the Global North – with only one quarter of the global population – bear collective responsibility for over two-thirds of the damage of the climate crisis. In contrast, the poorer half of people in the world produce just 7% of our global GHGs.  
Although the USA is top, the UK is also in the top 5 for national carbon dioxide responsibility. Note that the UK was part of the EU-28. In the past 170 years, the USA has emitted nine times their total fair share of CO2. The UK is five times over our limit. So, our climate action needs to go far beyond ‘Net Zero Carbon’.  We have a duty to become net absorbers of GHGs as rapidly as we can. 

This is another reason why The Vegan Society is urging leaders to move towards plant-based food, farming and land management. The 2019 report, 'Eating away at climate change with negative emissions: Repurposing UK agricultural land to meet climate goals' shows how this works in a UK context.  
Consider the scenario where we enable tree cover to return to UK land currently grazed by farmed animals, and use all the UK fields currently growing animal feed to grow our own food. This would remove the equivalent of nine years of current UK GHG emissions of carbon from the atmosphere.   
Time is fast running out for us to reach our 2030 GHG targets and keep global temperature rises under 1.5° C. We urgently need to buy back these nine years of time to take effective climate action.   
Similar scenarios apply all across the Global North.  We must become net absorbers of GHGs.  Moving away from industrial animal farming can help.  This is why industrial animal farming in the Global North must be a central topic for agreement during these COP26 climate negotiations.  

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