Canadians Should Eat 50% Less Meat To Meet Climate Targets, Report Suggests

Canada has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost half by 2030


3 Minutes Read

A woman eating a sandwich at a restaurant A new report urges Canadians to cut down on meat - Media Credit: Dejan Dundjerski | Adobe Stock

A new study suggests that Canadian citizens can do their bit for the climate crisis by slashing their meat and dairy consumption in half.

Produced on behalf of World Animal Protection Canada (WAPC) by Navius, the report analyzed the potential impact of animal agriculture on proposed climate targets within the country.  

Canada has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030, with net zero achieved by 2050. However, the government’s emissions reduction plan has faced scrutiny from the Canadian Climate Institute. The latter states that current plans will fall short by around nine megatonnes.

The plan claims “bold and immediate action” to slash greenhouse gas emissions. But fails to address the diets of Canadian citizens. Plans allude to supporting “greener on-farm practices,” but there is no mention of reducing animal agriculture. 

WAPC criticizes this. A statement from the organization reads: “There is no attention being made to the food we grow or what we eat when a key pathway to making meaningful reductions in Canada’s and global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) is to farm fewer animals and eat less meat and dairy.”

Canada’s meat consumption

Currently, 12 percent of all Canada’s emissions are attributed to agriculture. Animal farming (excluding animal feed and fertilizer for feed) is thought to be responsible for five percent of the national total. Though the government has released different estimates that state up to 10 percent of emissions come from animal agriculture.

Globally, animal agriculture contributes around 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Methane from farmed beef cattle has been identified as a significant driver. Pertinently, Canada rears more than 12 million of these animals a year.

Navius reports that emissions targets could be met if Canadians ate 35 percent less meat and dairy by 2030. This would need to rise to 50 percent less by 2050. It recommends a shift to plant-based food production as an environmental and economic priority.

The research group used a bespoke modeling system to illustrate how meat and dairy consumption has a direct impact on climate action. They laid out three scenarios. Each used a different level of animal product consumption as the central pivot point for projected national emissions amounts. 

The findings show that in phases of low meat and dairy consumption, overall agricultural emissions will be significantly less. A reduction in beef cattle production drives major progress. 

“Because animal agriculture is more emissions-intensive than plant-based agriculture, shifting demand towards plant-based production leads to lower emissions in this sector,” the Navius report states. 

“If future animal consumption is low, the resulting reduction in emissions could be enough, in combination with the implementation of [resource planning] policies, to allow Canada to achieve its 2030 emissions target,” it concludes.

A global shift towards plant-based

The Canadian analysis comes as the UK government’s food tsar issued a similar warning to British citizens. 

Henry Dimbleby has categorically stated that England must reduce its consumption of meat and dairy. That is if it hopes to avoid total climate catastrophe. Dimbleby didn’t go as far as some experts, who have called for a 90 percent drop in beef consumption.

IPCC expert reviewer Dr. Peter Carter has also directly called for the worldwide adoption of plant-based diets to slash animal-related methane emissions. He cites the move as key to our survival. 

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