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Climate march and the Meatless Monday campaign

Over 310,000 people marched yesterday in New York to call for action on climate change. The People’s Climate March aimed to press policymakers that will be meeting this Tuesday at the UN Climate Summit, a preparation for the next Conference of the Parties (COP). Hundreds of thousands showing that despite of political inaction, awareness on climate change has increased in the last years, together with the feeling that it is the biggest crisis of our century.

Climate change has increasingly influenced development policies. First of all, because of its consequences, whose impacts can be felt in public health, agriculture, infrastructure, energy and other sectors. But also because mitigating greenhouse gas emissions demands changes in the way development is framed in order to create prosperity within planetary boundaries. Although technological advances are needed for a transition to a low-carbon society, changes in behavior are equally important.

A good example on how individual behavior affects global emissions is meat consumption. The world average of annual meat consumption (excluding other animal products as dairy and eggs) is 38.7 kg per person. This number varies largely from 3.2 kg per capita in India to 125.7 kg per capita in the United States. Emerging countries, like Brazil and China, have been increasing their annual consumption of meat per capita rapidly, with national averages of 80.6 kg and 54.1 kg respectively. Despite of the great impact that meat consumption already has on climate change, – currently accounting for 14.5% of human-induced GHG emissions – international negotiations have overlooked this topic so far.

Expected future increase in meat consumption per capita and population growth will have great impact on natural resources, public health and climate change. If no action is taken to reverse current dietary trends, it is estimated that meat production will almost double by 2050, reaching 455 million tonnes and increasing the demand for cereals in 50% compared to 2005/2007 levels. Moreover, agricultural emissions of CH4 (methane) and N2O (nitrous oxide) are expected to triple by 2055 to 15.3 GtCO2eq/yr if current dietary trends and population growth were to continue. This will account for around 75% of total expected global emissions by 2050, considering the target of a 2C increase in global temperature averages (annual emissions of about 20 GtCO2eq/yr).

It is time to pressure global leaders to take action on climate change, but it is also good to remember the impact that our individual actions have on this process. Therefore, on this after-march Monday, I invite you to try new recipes and to take the meat out of your plate for humans, animals and the planet!

* More info and recipes can be found at:

Cassia Moraes

MPA-DP Candidate – Columbia University

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