Meat & Livestock News

Meat Industry’s Influence at Cop28 Climate Conference

Meat processing plant. Production line of meat.Line for the production of meat with packaging and cutting . Industrial equipment at a meat factory.

At the upcoming Cop28 climate conference in Dubai, major meat companies and their lobby groups are preparing to present a strong pro-meat stance. Documents obtained by the Guardian and DeSmog reveal plans by the world’s largest meat company, JBS, along with other significant players like the Global Dairy Platform and the North American Meat Institute, to make their presence felt at the summit.

These documents, produced by the industry-funded Global Meat Alliance (GMA), highlight the industry’s intention to promote its perspective, emphasising “scientific evidence” to support its claims. Key communication messages being circulated among members suggest a narrative that positions meat as environmentally beneficial.

The meat and dairy industries, known for their substantial greenhouse gas emissions, are facing increasing scrutiny. The dairy sector alone accounts for 3.4% of global human-induced emissions, surpassing the aviation industry.

In response, trade groups are planning to influence discussions at Cop28, with some aiming to encourage the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation to present “positive livestock content.”

Animal agriculture, a significant source of methane emissions, is under the spotlight for its role in climate change. Experts warn that without immediate action, methane emissions from agriculture could lead to a temperature rise beyond 1.5C above preindustrial levels, risking irreversible climate breakdown.

Jennifer Jacquet, a professor of environmental science and policy, notes that these companies are becoming more proactive in their approach due to increasing exposure.

Nusa Urbancic, CEO of the Changing Markets Foundation, echoes this sentiment, stating that credible actions to reduce emissions in the food sector would inevitably lead to reduced meat and dairy production, a prospect the industry is keen to avoid.

At Cop27, JBS gained access to talks as part of Brazil’s national delegation. This year, the documents reveal plans for a large presence of the sector’s biggest emitters, accompanied by lobby groups known for their obstructive actions. The North American Meat Institute (NAMI), for example, has been sceptical about human-caused climate change.

The leaked documents also show dairy companies planning a significant delegation to Cop28. This comes after backlash from meat-interested countries led to the dilution of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s dietary recommendations.

The documents advise companies and trade groups on how to influence discussions, including equipping delegates with key messages and solutions. They also detail plans for collaborations and hosting events at country pavilions, particularly those of major beef exporters like the US and Australia.

Research indicates that government support plays a crucial role in the dominance of the animal agriculture industry over alternative protein sources. In the EU and the US, meat and dairy farmers receive significantly more public funding than producers of alternative proteins.

The industry’s documents also include arguments for meat as “sustainable nutrition,” claiming benefits to the environment and citing regenerative agriculture practices. However, scientists have raised concerns about the reliability of soil carbon storage in the long term.

In their messaging, the industry highlights the role of meat in addressing food insecurity and malnutrition in the global south, despite the UN-linked Committee on World Food Security pointing to access, distribution, and power issues as the root causes of these problems.

The documents briefly mention methane reduction efforts but emphasise participation in discussions rather than concrete actions. The significant emissions from beef production, comparable to those of entire nations, highlight the need for dietary shifts to reduce emissions.

The Global Meat Alliance, representing mostly producers from the global north, aims to counter what it perceives as an anti-meat narrative at intergovernmental events.

However, small-scale farmers, who produce a significant portion of the world’s food, often receive minimal climate finance and representation in such discussions.

Livestock experts stress the importance of including diverse perspectives, especially from the global south, in discussions about livestock pollution. Ian Scoones, a researcher, expresses concern that marginalised groups like pastoralists might be overlooked in these debates.