Emissions Impossible Europe | IATP

Executive Summary

At a time when governments must dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, global meat and dairy giants in Europe are increasing emissions by ramping up production and exports.

IATP has calculated the emissions of 35 of the largest meat and dairy corporations with headquarters in the European Union (EU) and Switzerland. Most are still not reporting their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Of the 20 companies we examined in detail, only three have committed to reducing their overall emissions from livestock. None of the companies we examined have expressed an intention to reduce the number of livestock in their supply chains, where 90% of meat and dairy emissions originate.

In our Emissions Impossible series, we have examined the agricultural emissions of multinational livestock and dairy companies. In 2018, in a joint report with GRAIN, we showed the scale of those emissions, which rival those of Big Oil. In 2020, our Milking the Planet report exposed the continued rise of emissions from global dairy companies. In this latest iteration of the series, we focus on companies based in Europe. We show how — rather than reducing livestock emissions — Big Meat and Dairy are employing narratives and strategies that result in a green smokescreen over the industry’s contribution to climate change. This report explains why, instead, they must be held to account and contribute to urgently needed action to reduce emissions this decade.

Only 10 of the top 20 meat and dairy corporations have announced climate targets with a few declaring net-zero plans. However, these voluntary plans rely on a range of strategies to dress up their climate action. These include:

  • co-opting the narrative on regenerative and agro­ecological agriculture;
  • focus on reductions of emissions per kilo of meat or litre of milk (emissions intensity reductions), which are drowned out by the companies’ continued expansion of overall production;
  • development of and plans to use impermanent soil and grassland carbon offsets sold on carbon markets;
  • utilisation of unproven feed additives that claim to reduce methane; and last but not least,
  • government-led incentives that perversely valorise large-scale animal agriculture through the capture of methane for “biogas” from livestock manure (see Box 3).

Offsets and improvements in efficiency will mainly fall on farmer suppliers to pay for and implement, even though these corporations set the terms for production. Offsets rely on uncertain pledges to reduce emissions elsewhere, replacing actual cuts to emissions. The trends are clear: Big meat and dairy companies in the EU, Switzerland and the United Kingdom (U.K.) are moving in the wrong direction.

No European government holds these companies accountable for their supply chain emissions, even as agriculture emissions have risen in the last decade. As the EU prepares to launch a Carbon Farming Initiative as part of its carbon removal plans in the EU Green Deal and as it sets rules more broadly for climate and agriculture, governments must require Big Meat and Dairy to commit to a reduction in their absolute emissions.

The EU must not certify the use of impermanent and unreliable carbon offset schemes, which enable corporate polluters to delay climate action and hide their emissions.

…(read more).


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