Climate talks in Doha ignore impact of meat and livestock

Logo for COP18 climate talks in Doha

Meat will be on the menu for the world’s politicians today, embarking on the annual round of climate talks in Doha, but will be entirely absent from the formal agenda.

Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Atttiyah, president of COP18, told participants at the opening ceremony that “Climate change is a challenge for humanity” and that the conference was a “golden opportunity – we must make best use of it”.

And yet delegates to the climate conference in Qatar will not be discussing the huge part that industrial livestock farming plays in the production of greenhouse gases.

Mention of meat is similarly absent from the conference’s sustainability guidelines, meaning it will be served in canteens, during meetings and at official dinners, rather than more environmentally friendly meat-free options.

That the connection between meat-eating and environmental degradation will not be addressed officially is all the more astonishing after so many reports have confirmed that the livestock sector in one of the largest contributors to global warming, as well as other environmental problems.

The FAO estimates the livestock production is responsible for up to 18 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while other organisations have estimated it could be as high as 51 per cent.

Critics of the talks, which have signally failed in recent years to bring about a binding international resolution on tackling climate change,  argue that COP officials ought to be taking the lead in bringing attention to the issue.

One way would be discuss the issue of the meat and advocate for action on a political and individual level, such as adopting Meat Free Monday. Another – at the very least – would be to keep meat off the conference menu.

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