The United Nations’ COP23 climate change talks will soon kick off in Bonn, Germany with the focus on developing a plan on how to implement the Paris Agreement, specifically how to keep global warming below two degrees Celcius. But there’s one problem: not one country has come up with a plan on how to tackle livestock emissions.

For Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR), a group that ensures investors understand the risk of livestock production, believes livestock emissions are the “elephant in the room” and they are urging countries to prioritize their livestock emissions.

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“It’s two years since Paris rang the starting bell on the low carbon transition and investors have tended to focus on high-emitting sectors like energy, transport, and extractives. Investors should not overlook the livestock sector where some of the biggest climate risks and opportunities exist,” FAIRR states.

ProVeg, a food advocacy group agrees and has launched a petition to the host nation, Germany, to address livestock emissions during the COP23 climate change talks. The petition already has over 66,000 signatures from concerned citizens.

The concept that the livestock system is a major driver in global climate change is not new. Unfortunately, it is one of the most overlooked and underestimated sectors. In 2009, Worldwatch Institute published a study called “Livestock and Climate Change” that detailed the many (largely) unaccounted for greenhouse gas emissions that livestock contributes to our atmosphere. According to this study’s findings, livestock production is responsible for as much as 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Yet – the number that is most commonly shared is 14.5 percent, which is from the UN FAO’s report “Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock,” which was published in 2013.

Regardless of which number is wildly accepted, industrial animal agriculture still accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector. There are many more drivers of climate change, all sadly linked to the expansion of the industrial animal agriculture industry. For instance, the global livestock system accounts for 23 percent of global freshwater consumption and, 45 percent of the total land use. It is also one of the largest drivers of global deforestation, as more space is needed to graze cattle and grow feed for livestock. If rates of deforestation continue, there likely won’t be any rainforests left in the next 100 years. The world’s rainforests are the lungs of the planet. Not only do trees provide us with oxygen and help to regulate climate, by influencing precipitation outputs, but they also absorb around 30 percent of human-made carbon dioxide outputs.

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When it comes to talking about ways to combat climate change, few organizations point toward reducing meat and dairy consumption. Here at One Green Planet, we’ve been adamant on the point that global food system dominated by industrial animal agriculture is at the heart of our environmental crisis.

The good news is that you can make a difference, simply by starting with what’s on your plate. You can start eating for the planet by doing nothing more than choosing a delicious plant-based meal over one laden with animal products. If you look at it from a personal perspective, you can cut your own carbon footprint in half just by leaving meat off your plate for one year. (Plus save a lot of water, redirect grain for people to eat, and help protect endangered species…)

We all have the power to create a better future for our children, and the countless animals we share the planet with, by making one easy swap. If you’re ready to start doing this in your own life, check out One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign.

Image Source: Spike Stitch/Flickr

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