More to COP26 for beef than methane and forest pledges


Shan Goodwin, North Queensland Register (AU)

15 Nov 2021


Global pledges to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent and reverse deforestation within the next nine years will have many practical implications for Australia's livestock business that need to be nutted out but the wash-up of Glasgow has made one thing abundantly clear.


Perception is everything.


Livestock is now a key part of world attempts to address climate change. What pledges emerge from here, and how they are enacted, will come down to what the world's people understand, and value, about animal food production.


The Glasgow 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP26, was accompanied by plenty of protests and report releases that presented very different perspectives on the role of livestock.


Anti-meat activists declared meat on the menu at the event was "the equivalent of serving cigarettes at a lung cancer conference."


Criticisms of 'greenwashing' - or providing misleading information about a company or product's environmental credentials - were also made loud and clear.


Greenwashing is typically used to convey a positive environmental footprint where one doesn't exist.


While beef businesses were in their firing line for some greenwashing criticism, so too were plant-based diet lobbyists who use misinformation to paint cattle producers as environmental villains.


At the same time, commentary about the livestock industry being misrepresented, misunderstood and under valued was certainly part of Glasgow, albeit a little more behind-the-scenes than the street action.


A report released in the lead-up to COP26 by Pastres, a research program funded by the European Research Council, warned the dominant picture of livestock's impacts on climate change had been distorted by faulty assumptions that focus on intensive, industrial farming in rich countries.


Animal-source foods were crucial to providing high density protein, especially for low-income and vulnerable populations and in places where crops cannot be produced, it said.


The idea that beef needs to 'tell its story', and halt the narrative based on fake facts, is not new but many industry leaders and analysts say it was the number one lesson to be taken from Glasgow.


Some believe a more balanced view of livestock's role in climate change solutions, and feeding the world, is starting to emerge but no one is arguing there isn't much, much more work to be done on telling Australian beef's story.


Credentials on show ...


Turning tide ...