At this pivotal juncture in the fight against climate change, we must confront the significant role of animal farming. The Plant Based Treaty, a proposed companion to the UNFCC/Paris Agreement, calls for a transformation to a fully plant-based food system that allows us to live within our planetary boundaries and reforest the Earth. In this article, we'll introduce you to the treaty and delve into one compelling reason as to why it is needed so desperately: methane emissions.
The Challenge of Methane
Defossilisation of our energy sector is necessary but not enough. We need to buy time for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions to take effect in slowing warming. Methane, a shorter-lived gas with far greater warming potential in the short term, is a powerful lever to slow climate change.
Why a Plant Based Treaty?
Animal farming is responsible for a third of global methane emissions, primarily through the release of methane from cows' digestive systems. In Australia, agriculture accounted for 58% of methane emissions in 2021, largely due to animal farming.
Introducing the Plant Based Treaty
The Plant Based Treaty is designed to target greenhouse gas reductions by placing food systems at the heart of our efforts to combat the climate crisis. Modelled after the successful Fossil Fuel Treaty, the treaty aims to halt the widespread degradation of critical ecosystems caused by animal farming and promote a shift to more sustainable plant-based consumption.
Insights from the Experts
• The UN Secretary-General António Guterres described the release of the IPCC sixth assessment as a "code red" for humanity and our last chance to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown.
• Durwood Zaelke, IPCC lead reviewer, identified methane reduction as "probably the only way of preventing temperature rises of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels" beyond which extreme weather and the risk of triggering planetary tipping points increases.
• Dr Pep Canadell, expert on Greenhouse Gas emissions at CSIRO, emphasises that while "stabilization of the climate is a function of the cumulative CO2 emissions in the atmosphere," cutting methane is "low hanging fruit" because it translates to quick temperature drops.
• Oxford researcher Michael Clark asserts "even if fossil fuel emissions stop immediately, emissions from our food systems alone could increase global temperatures by more than 1.5°C."
Support for the Plant Based Treaty
Already the Plant Based Treaty has garnered support from individuals, organisations, and politicians worldwide. Over 100,000 individuals, 3,000 groups and businesses, and more than 650 politicians have endorsed the treaty, along with over 20 cities.
What you can do
Endorsing the Plant Based Treaty represents a real and meaningful opportunity to combat the climate crisis and we encourage you to join us in taking action!