Opinion: Why it's time for Just Transition within food systems


By Lasse Bruun, Opinion, Devex

11 October 2021


The Dutch Government made headlines last month by announcing its plans to cut livestock production by 30% to address its “nitrogen crisis.” While the ambition is commendable and crucial if the country is to meet its climate and environmental goals, the proposed strategy should also respect the principles of Just Transition. This would ensure an equitable transformation for farmers and supply chain workers towards a nature-positive food system.


In a nutshell, a Just Livestock Transition necessitates a thorough transformation of the industrialized livestock production to facilitate a transition towards a more climate-compatible and healthy food system. The key here is to ensure that a transition away from the most resource-intensive way of protein production does not further exacerbate inequalities which deeply affect existing food systems.


In the energy sector, Just Transition has become a widely accepted framework guiding a transition towards a low-carbon economy. However, industrialized livestock production — which is equally damaging to the climate and environment — has not yet been put alongside other climate-incompatible industries and addressed through a lens of a Just Transition.


The livestock sector accounts for at least 14.5 % of all greenhouse gas emissions and is projected to account for up to 81% of the 1.5 degrees Celsius emissions budget by 2050 if production continues unabated. The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stresses the urgent need for “rapid, persistent, and substantial” cuts in methane emissions stemming from fossil fuels and livestock production.


Present trends in livestock production are severely endangering our planet’s ecosystems, natural resources, livelihoods, human health, and animal welfare. If intensive animal agriculture continues at its current pace, it will render the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals unachievable.


Contrary to what is often claimed, transitioning to plant-rich diets could help...


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