The EU and the USA announced The Global Methane Pledge back in September 2021, acknowledging that (our emphasis),
“Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and, according to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, accounts for about half of the 1.0 degrees Celsius net rise in global average temperature since the pre-industrial era.
“Rapidly reducing methane emissions is complementary to action on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and is regarded as the single most effective strategy to reduce global warming in the near term and keep the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach. ”
We welcome the inclusion of agriculture, and specific mention of industrial animal farming in the Global North, in this Global Methane Pledge. About 104 countries have signed the pledge to date. But a significant problem is that these signatories are collectively responsible for under half of our global methane emissions.
Given the urgency and importance, we are also disappointed that the Global Methane Pledge target is not more ambitious. The agreement is only to reduce global methane emissions ‘by at least 30 percent’ from 2020 levels by 2030. Without much more ambitious and rapid reductions in methane emissions, our safe budgets of other greenhouse gas emissions are significantly lower, and harder to obtain.
Almost one third of our total global methane emissions are due to us farming animals who ruminate, such as cattle and sheep. That’s equivalent to about two thirds of the total methane produced by global agriculture. Here at The Vegan Society we’ve been highlighting this problem, and the realistic solutions, for over a decade.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has now determined that deep reductions in methane emissions will be highly significant in slowing down harmful climate change effects. The measures so far mentioned by the Global Methane Pledge are too vague and narrow to achieve the reductions we now have to make.
The fact is, ‘adjusting’ how we farm millions of cattle and sheep is not going to achieve the climate obligations of the Global North in our agriculture sector. The IPCC has explicitly stated, ‘dietary shifts away from emissions-intensive livestock products’ are required. That means, Global North Governments must support our people to eat more plant protein, and our farmers to grow more legumes and grains. This in turn means, we must support our farmers to rapidly move away from artificially breeding and farming cattle and sheep, and other animals.
Our Grow Green work looks at how farmers in the UK can make this transition to plant-based land management techniques in practice. Our policy-makers must ensure that those farms all across the Global North which currently have the largest numbers of cattle and sheep can now lead the way to truly sustainable plant-based agriculture.
The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.