Meat industry must lobby to protect interests after Paris climate change deal

By Mark Rowe

- Last updated on GMT

Dr Jonathan Scurlock: "China’s industry has appallingly high rates of methane"
Dr Jonathan Scurlock: "China’s industry has appallingly high rates of methane"

Related tags: Climate change, Greenhouse gas

The meat industry has been warned to lobby to protect its interests among governments charged with implementing the international climate change treaty agreed in Paris last weekend.

The meat industry has been warned to lobby to protect its interests among governments charged with implementing the international climate change treaty agreed in Paris last weekend.

The accord, struck at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (or ‘COP 21’), calls for global average temperatures to be kept below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. The UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned that even a 1.5°C rise will affect the livestock sector in many countries and Alexandre Meybeck, principle FAO adviser for agriculture, environment and climate change, said that a 3°C rise would see the cattle industry “suffer much more”.

But Hsin Huang, secretary general of the International Meat Secretariat, said national meat sectors needed to liaise closely with their home governments to ensure the sector did not have unrealistic targets thrust upon it. “Our industry is not doing enough to tell its own story. By not talking about what we do to combat climate change we make ourselves an easy target for articulate groups."

Climate resilience

Agriculture is one of the few sectors where your actions can help sequester carbon. Agriculture as a whole can deliver large numbers through well-managed pasture land.​”

Agriculture was the only sector to be specifically mentioned in the final agreement. In Article 2 of the accord, countries sign up to “increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production​”.

Said Dr Jonathan Scurlock, chief energy and renewables adviser at the UK’s National Farmers’ Union. “That’s the bit we can wave at our governments if they look to introduce measures that make the industry unprofitable. Agricultural emissions are fundamentally different from other sectors. There is no prototype for a genetically modified ruminant that does not produce methane. You can minimise, but you can’t abolish the emissions.​”

China's CO2 rate 'appalling' 

There are also clear implications for the meat industry in Article 2, which calls for funding for new technology in developing countries through “finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilient development​”. This was welcomed by Scurlock, who said: “There’s a recognition that, sooner or later, we are going to have to share our technology with others. There’s no gain in us rearing low-methane cows if China’s industry has appallingly high rates of methane.​”

Scurlock, however, felt the issue of how developed and developing nations compete can be overplayed: “I think the wider issue is that of added value. I don’t think the meat industry should be tackling competitors head-on in Brazil or Botswana on cost grounds.”

Meybeck agreed that the meat sector might have to look at innovative approaches: “Part of the Paris agreement involves a recognition of the need for more sustainable lifestyles and sustainable production. There will be probably be progressive changes in consumption patterns. It may lead to an appreciation of value-added products.​”

The deal is also certain to lead to enhanced emissions trading systems worldwide and a bolstering of the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism and calls in article 6 for “internationally transferred mitigation outcomes to achieve nationally determined contributions​”. Meybeck said this represented good news for livestock farmers. “The restoration and increase in grassland and rangelands is important for the creation of carbon sinks,​” he said.

Related topics: China, EU, Environment

Related news

Show more


Show more


Posted by Brian,

Great to hear comments from people who are not simply aiming to protect the profits of an industry rife with cruelty, exploitation and environmental damage. I have nothing against farmers at all which is why I say to them now is the time to start your move to plant based agriculture. Every single argument to continue with the mass exploitation is now completely debunked. I highly advise not waiting until the last minute. Any money you make from here on, will only haunt you and the future for your descendants.

Report abuse

Meat industry needs no global-warming regulation

Posted by Monckton of Brenchley,

The atmospheric concentration of methane, emitted in small concentrations by ruminants such as cattle, has barely risen in the past decade. The trend is well below the absurdly extravagant estimates in IPCC's four Assessment Reports. The principal biogenic methane source is the termite ant, compared with which the contribution of all the world's cattle is barely detectable. The livestock industry should raise its game to prevent itself from being subjected to pointless regulation.

Report abuse

Wicked „climate science“ made by the IPCC

Posted by Albrecht Glatzle,

There is no need to lobby for our noble product MEAT, telling the consumer how little greenhouse gases we are emitting. Time has come to tell the consumers that there is no discernible influence whatsoever of human made GHGs on the climate. Time has come to resist the flawed messages brought to us disguised as science by the IPCC, the COPs (and even the FAO). The IPCC has turned upside down what used to be environmental protection for the sake of humanity. It has now declared pollutant what is in reality the most important nutrient of life, CO2, thus considering CO2-emitting humanity as the real environmental “problem” of the planet, distorting what has been considered "ethical" during millennia.
Just being back home from the Paris-COP21 and a number of competing (relatively small) side events in town, I got the impression that science is virtually absent at the COPs. Science is not welcome and is even suppressed. Very few delegates of the COPs (definitely less than 1%) do have some basic knowledge of climate science. They trust childishly and blindly in the “authority” of the central messages brought about by the IPCC, not realizing that every student would fail if he applied the IPCC’s logics in his thesis. These kind of thoughts are redlined in the COPs but if you happen to succeed raising them you just hear some standardized cheap excuses, - but not a trace of scientific debate whatsoever (“the debate is over”). This was totally different at the 4 counter-COPs in Paris and Essen, where dozens of real scientists from three continents told us why the message transmitted by IPCC is dead wrong.
Here are the most outstanding messages:
1) CO2 is the only Carbon source for all organic matter (through photosynthesis and nutrient chains). The worldwide annual fertilization value of manmade CO2 for crops has been estimated to 140 billion $$.
2) There is no evidence whatsoever that the increase of CO2 concentration from 0,03% to 0,04% since the beginning of industrialization had any discernible influence on the climate:
- Since almost 20 years global mean temperature has been flat (satellite data) in spite of steadily increasing CO2-levels in the atmosphere. This contradicts all the IPCC models published in the first 4 Assessment Reports. In fact, present day temperatures are well below the confidence intervals of all published IPCC-projections.
3) Hence, IPCC models never have been validated. Nonetheless increasing the probability (up to 95% as did the IPCC in its lasted report AR5) that the slight increase in temperature observed last century is largely human caused is not only a scientific impossibility, it is a scientific fraud.
4) It was shown that the glaciers in the Alps were smaller than today due to a warmer climate in 65% of the past 10.000 years (Holocene after the end of the last ice age), in spite of pre-industrial CO2-levels (Glaciologist Gernot Patzelt from Innsbruck University). This coincides well with other measurements made in Greenland and even New-Zealand. But the IPCC does not tell us this.
5) Sea level rise is observed since 12.000 years ago but slowed down tremendously (to some 15 cm per century) during the past 3.000 years and did not increase during the past decades. The artifact data presented by the IPCC to tell us a different story of this complex matter are not recognized by the most outstanding experts in this topic, such as Nils Mörner from Stockholm University
6) Nor did increase frequency or intensity of weather extremes (as clearly admitted in the IPCC technical reports, but falsely claimed in the “Summary for Policy Makers”).
7) As far as livestock’s supposed influence on the climate is concerned there is no livestock signal whatsoever in the geographical distribution and even historical development of atmospheric methane. So there is no point converting ruminants into monogastrics (by sacking them their ability, unique among vertebrates, to digest the most abundant substance in biosphere, cellulose, and converting it into meat and milk, by trying to eliminate methane emissions from enteric fermentation). Huge regions with fiber rich herbage but marginal for agriculture could no longer be properly used by ruminants, when they are not allowed to digest fiber and therefore emit methane. Furthermore both, the IPCC and the FAO, committed severe errors in their methodologies, as shown here:
In conclusion, the different climates of our planet are fully within their long term natural variability. Livestock has no discernible influence on the climate. It is impudence and up to blasphemy, as well as unjustifiable misguidance of humanity, to tell the world that we are capable of adjusting our climate to desired values, wasting hundreds of billions of $$ of taxpayers' money, used to inflate bureaucracies and dubious NGOs.

It is time to resist actively pseudo-science and misleading policies!

Report abuse

Follow us


View more