COP26 Round-up

What did this conference achieve and were animals given the attention they deserve?


Last week COP26 concluded and, disappointingly, the damaging impact of industrial animal agriculture remained unaddressed. For two weeks, world leaders, NGOs and industry representatives discussed means and measures to combat the climate crisis and deal with its harmful consequences. The global climate conference was billed as a crucial opportunity for nations to unite in the fight against climate change, so we are dismayed that little progress was made in acknowledging animal agriculture as a major contributor to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

Food, land and nature did feature at the summit in a series of pledges, speeches, initiatives and coalitions, but what does this all mean? Here’s a highlight of the key outcomes of COP26 and their shortcomings in relation to animal welfare: 

Global Methane Pledge

This US and EU-led initiative signed by more than 100 countries, that when combined are responsible for about one-half of global methane emissions, aims to reduce methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030. When launching this pledge, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced “the greatest potential for cuts is, without any doubt, in the energy sector”. In reality, fossil fuel supply chains account for only 35% of human-driven methane emissions, with 40% coming from agriculture. 

With 20 philanthropic organisations committing a combined £243m of funding to support emissions mitigation strategies, FOUR PAWS UK fails to understand the logic in omitting animal agricultural from the conversation. The world’s livestock alone produces more GHGs than the direct emissions of the world’s planes, trains and cars combined, yet the COP Methane Pledge makes no reference to animal agriculture or the pressing need to reduce the number of animals that are raised and slaughtered for food consumption each year.

AIM for Climate

Over 30 governments also signed onto the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate), an initiative that brings together almost £3bn of combined investments in innovative solutions to make agriculture more sustainable.  

Our current levels of livestock farming are not sustainable, and we cannot and should not rely on innovation and technology to maintain them. Rather, we should use this innovation to help us transition towards sustainable farming methods such as agroecology and more plant-based protein sources that can sustainably lower emissions in the long term without threatening food security. Technological solutions such as modified feed additives cannot counter the GHGs produced by the 88 billion animals that are raised for food production globally each year. COP26 should have been the moment that governments fully recognise the potential in cutting back on the world’s overconsumption of meat and in ending industrial animal agriculture. 

The Deforestation Declaration

World leaders from more than 140 nations that cover a combined total of 90% of the world’s forests joined forces with a promise to “work collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030”. On face value, this declaration represents positive steps towards sustainable land use and the conservation, protection and restoration of vital forest ecosystems. However, the Deforestation Declaration fails to acknowledge the impact that soy production for factory farmed animal feed has on the destruction of forests across the Amazon. Reaffirmations to invest in sustainable agriculture only scratch the surface of this issue, and by ignoring the elephant in the room that is animal agriculture we cannot hope to comprehensively tackle human-driven deforestation. 

“Whilst we welcome any step towards a future that acknowledges and tackles the climate emergency, COP26 was a missed opportunity to address the damaging impact of industrial animal agriculture and its role in this global crisis”

Sonul Badiani-Hamment, Director at FOUR PAWS UK

We cannot deny that COP26 was not the promising climate summit we had hoped for, however, we made sure to use our voice to represent animal welfare. With your support we presented over 70,000 #DietChangeNotClimateChange petition signatures to COP26 president Alok Sharma alongside Humane Society International and ProVeg International. We value every supporter who took time to speak out for animals and we will continue to engage with COP26 delegates and attendees following this petition to ensure animal welfare is firmly put on the agenda.

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World leaders are still ignoring the link between animal agriculture and climate change and this has been made clear through both their actions and words. With nearly 60% of the dishes served at COP26 purportedly containing meat or dairy, this was clearly yet another lost opportunity to show real intent on a key solution to tackle climate change. 2,300 words of documentation were produced on sustainable food and climate change, yet there was zero mention of the role of animal products. FOUR PAWS UK will continue to fight for animal welfare and demand that the UK government puts factory farming and animal welfare on the climate agenda. Without a reduction in industrialised animal agriculture we cannot have a sustainable future for animals, people and the planet. 

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Rebecca Dharmpaul

Campaigns Officer

Becky works in the Campaigns Team at FOUR PAWS UK, managing our Make Food Kinder and Dog Cat Meat Trade campaigns. She has a background in Zoology and animal welfare within sanctuaries, with over five years experience across several animal non-profits to aid in the protection of animals, both in the UK and internationally.

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