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December 15, 2010

Policymakers Must Make Farm Animal Emissions and Welfare a Part of UN Climate Talks

Humane Society International

  • HSI's climate change specialist Geoff Evans meets Nobel Laureate and IPCC chief Rajendra Pachauri at COP16. WSPA

  • HSI's Geoff Evans in our conference booth. Guilherme Carvalho/HSI

  • The plenary session. Guilherme Carvalho/HSI

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun (COP16) concluded Saturday, December 11, with the long-term fate of the climate still in the balance.

While the outcome of this set of talks was disappointing in terms of immediate greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, HSI’s participation in the COP16 did increase awareness about the impact of meat, egg, and milk production on climate change—raising the hope of future mitigation in this sector. The animal agriculture sector emits approximately 18 percent of global, human-induced GHGs, making it one of the most significant contributors to the climate crisis. A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences predicts that the sector’s emissions may increase 39 percent by 2050 if action is not taken.

HSI maintained an exhibit booth at COP16 to share this information, and to lobby the international community for “win-win” solutions that mitigate emissions from the animal agriculture sector, while ensuring farm animal welfare, food security, and environmental sustainability.

HSI’s Animal Agriculture and Climate Change Specialist, Geoff Evans, also shared information on animal agriculture’s climate change impacts with key policy and thought leaders, including introducing our work to the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri, and Indian Minister of the Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh.

In addition, HSI hosted a panel on animal agriculture and climate change at Agriculture and Rural Development Day, a parallel event to COP16 in Cancun. At this event, and throughout COP16, HSI’s delegation networked with other civil society groups around the world who are concerned about the environment.

As individuals, we do not have to wait for policymakers to act. Each of us can reduce our contribution to climate change by choosing a diet less reliant on animal products.

For more information on animal agriculture’s impacts on the climate, view HSI’s white paper [PDF] on climate change. Our COP16 policy recommendations are available here [PDF]. Geoff Evans’s interview on Climate TV can also be viewed online.