According to a new study, fifteen of the world’s largest meat and dairy companies emit roughly the same amount of methane as the whole of the European Union.
The study, which focused on five meat companies and 10 dairy companies, was commissioned by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the Changing Markets Foundation. It comes ahead of a scheduled update on the global methane pledge on Saturday at this year’s UN climate conference.
In the United States, Tyson Foods, the world’s second-largest meat company, releases about the same amount of methane as all livestock in Russia, while the national dairy industry organization, Dairy Farmers of America , releases the same amount of methane as all livestock. in the UK, according to the new study.
Shefali Sharma, European director of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and co-author of the study, said the combined emissions from the 15 companies equaled more than half of all US methane emissions. United.
“It’s a staggering discovery,” Sharma told Grist in an email. “If governments are serious about meeting their global methane commitment, these companies should be number one on their list to regulate.”
Methane is a natural gas and also a greenhouse gas that is produced by various human and animal activities, such as the production of waste. Methane accounts for 20% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. According to the study, methane remains in the atmosphere for a decade but has a warming potential 80 times that of carbon dioxide and, under current policies, emissions are projected to increase by 30% between 2015 and 2050.
At last year’s climate conference in Glasgow, the United States launched the Global Methane Pledge, now signed by more than 100 countries, to reduce methane emissions from all sources by 30% by 2030. This year at COP27, President Joseph Biden announced tougher restrictions on methane. emissions from the oil and gas industry. Forty countries are expected to unveil methane reduction plans at this year’s climate summit.
The Biden administration has previously outlined plans to reduce agricultural methane production, with the majority of those plans centered on increased funding for waste digesters, which convert waste from large-scale dairy, poultry, hog and other farms into methane. The technology, which is set to explode under the Cut Inflation Act, is being criticized by environmental and agricultural groups who see it as a way to continue supporting large industrial agriculture that pollutes nearby communities and emits tons of greenhouse gas.
Sharma said the best way to reduce methane emissions from livestock is to reduce the number of animals that are produced, processed and shipped around the world.
“That means getting less and much better meat from well-tended, organically produced pastures, from farms that are good for their animals and treat them well,” she said. “In the United States, that means supporting local, state, and national policy that encourages this type of production, builds smaller, decentralized food supply chains that reach consumers.”
The study authors called for increased government policy on methane regulation and tracking, including monitoring indirect emissions caused throughout the supply chain, known as scope emissions. 3. The newly published study found that none of the 15 companies surveyed, from Nestlé to JBS Foods, the world’s largest producer of beef, chicken and lamb, track the methane emissions found in their food chains. supply.