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Worrying signs about vital summit

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It is less than 40 days to the start of the Cop26 conference and it’s not good news when the UN secretary-general warns of a ‘high risk of failure’ for the talks.

Chinese representatives haven’t even confirmed they are attending and Boris Johnson has admitted he is having an uphill battle to get rich nations to commit to paying into a proposed $100 billion fund to help poorer countries move to sustainable technologies.

But a recent US-EU pledge to cut global methane emissions is a step in the right direction. Methane, about 80 times more effective at warming the atmosphere than CO2, is a product of natural gas production, fracking, meat production and other types of agriculture.

Cattle grazing in the sunshine.. (51514206)
Cattle grazing in the sunshine.. (51514206)

The plan is to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030. It has been suggested that if this was adopted around the globe it could alone cut global temperatures by 0.2C by 2040 – which would be significant in halting sea level rise and other influential climatic changes.

Changes to agriculture, especially soil management and animal husbandry, are going to be essential in this process – but we also need to think about how we can adjust at home. And the most likely way we can help is to review our diets.

#5 – Cut your dietary carbon footprint.

A key reason that rich nation citizens have higher carbon footprints than other people is our diet.

Food typically accounts for ¼ of a person’s ‘carbon footprint’ and switching to a plant-based diet can greatly reduce that.

One reason is the amount of land needed to sustain livestock farming. It has been calculated that half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture and of this nearly 80 per cent is used for livestock production. But livestock only accounts for 18 per cent of the world’s calories and about 37 per cent of protein.

Put simply, if we all ate a bit less meat the entire human population could live on food from a much smaller area of cropland. Worrying signs about vital summit

This could help to halt the destruction of precious natural habitats such as rainforest. It could also help support less intensive agricultural systems. Again, in simple terms, this could reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced by farming and lead to benefits for soil health, biodiversity and water management.

Here’s a three-step process to get more plants into your diet:

1 Try cutting out some animal products at certain meal times. It may be easiest to avoid animal products at breakfast and lunch. For example, if you have cereal in the morning try it with plant-based milk or yogurt. For lunch – think about hummus and salad rather than ham or chicken!

2 Try a period of time without eating red meat, for example one month. Beef and mutton are the most ‘carbon heavy’ meat products (i.e. compared to pork, poultry and fish). Vegetarian and vegan food options are now booming – its never been easier to access veggie food options. Begin toconsider meat as something you only have on special occasions.

3 If you feel no meal is complete without some ‘meat’ – try a few plant-based ‘meat’ products. You can now buy veggie bacon, burgers, chicken – and the choice is growing all the time.

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