There’s one big subject our leaders at Cop27 won’t touch: livestock farming

(The Guardian, 9 Nov 2022) It’s on course to guzzle half the world’s carbon budget, so why are governments so afraid to discuss it?

There are just two actions needed to prevent catastrophic climate breakdown: leave fossil fuels in the ground and stop farming animals. But, thanks to the power of the two industries, both aims are officially unmentionable. Neither of them has featured in any of the declarations from the 26 climate summits concluded so far.

Astonishingly, the sectors themselves are seldom mentioned. I’ve worked through every final agreement produced by the summits since they began. Fossil fuels are named in only six of them. Just one hints at using less overall: the others propose only to improve efficiency (which, as we have known since the 19th century, can often paradoxically increase fossil fuel use), attempt technical fixes or, in the case of last year’s agreement in Glasgow, phase down “unabated” coal burning, while saying nothing about reducing oil or gas. Not one of them suggests extracting less. If fossil fuels are removed from the ground, they will be used, regardless of governments’ vague declarations about consumption.

The other omission is even starker. Livestock is mentioned in only three agreements, and the only action each of them proposes is “management”. Nowhere is there a word about reduction. It’s as though nuclear non-proliferation negotiators had decided not to talk about bombs. You cannot address an issue if you will not discuss it.

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The Guardian, 9 Nov 2022: There’s one big subject our leaders at Cop27 won’t touch: livestock farming