The Vegan Society is disappointed by what it’s calling the slow and uninspiring targets for tackling methane set at COP26 – despite the fact it has a global warming potential 84 times greater than CO2 across a 20-year time frame.
Today (12 November) marks the final day of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow.
Alongside commitments to end deforestation and stop public investment in coal power, one of the more major announcements to come out of the two-week conference, was the Global methane pledge - in which over 100 countries, including the US and EU, have committed to a 30% reduction in methane by 2030.
While it is encouraging to see such focus and worldwide acknowledgement of the damage methane causes, these unambitious targets don’t go nearly far enough to solving the crisis at hand.
Further to this, the announcement indicated that the focus will be on ‘high emission sources’ – which could be an indication that high point-sources of emissions, from natural gas extraction for example, will take priority. This may mean that the largest source of anthropogenic methane emissions – which as we know is caused by animal agriculture and farming – may slip under the radar at a time when all methane emissions must come down.
The damage caused by methane emissions from the agriculture sector has been largely ignored throughout the conference. While many countries have specific targets for GHG reductions in the energy sector within their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), we are not seeing equivalent targets in food and farming which accounts for up to one third of global emissions.
Louise Davies, CEO of The Vegan Society, commented: “We know that time is running out and we need to bring methane emissions down substantially and quickly – and proposing to reduce it by just 30% just isn’t enough. Food really does feel like the cow in the room – it’s not that we’re lacking the solutions to address food and agriculture but it’s just that there’s still so much reluctance to have that conversation in the first place.”
“This slow pace of change reflects the low level of ambition we’ve come to expect from these climate conferences. The discussions around methane are very much welcome but must include plant-based policies which we know can support mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as adaption and resilience. We’ve seen some progress since previous COPs but it doesn’t go far enough.”
Whilst there has yet to be any global commitment on reducing methane from agriculture, there is some support from British politicians. At a UNFCCC side event co-hosted by The Vegan Society, former Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, Barry Gardiner MP said: “The Global Methane Agreement… focuses too much simply on the oil and gas sector… we really do need to understand that 40% of methane emissions are actually coming from agriculture and from livestock and so we really have to address that.”
The Vegan Society believes failing to engage the public on sustainable food, such as plant-based diets, and setting stronger and more achievable targets, will sadly cost our climate, nature and future generations dearly.
Throughout COP26, with sponsorship from Veg Capital and A Well Fed World, The Vegan Society has been promoting the message that everyone you can do their bit simply by changing the kind of food they are eating. As well as a stand in the Buchanan Galleries shopping centre, the Society, alongside bluedot, hosted The ‘Plate Up for the Planet’ festival.
Read more about The Vegan Society’s work at COP26.