Why Food Must Be Part of Our Climate Change Dialogue
This week wraps up #COP24, the United Nations climate change conference in Katowice, Poland, where leaders from across the globe met to discuss strategies for preventing the worst impacts of climate change and creating a safer future. While energy was a major focus of the talks, another topic was notably missing from the negotiations: food and agriculture.
Here’s the thing—we can’t talk about climate change without talking about food. When it comes to global warming, the food industry occupies a conflicted space. Greenhouse gas emissions threaten our food security, but industrial food production is also responsible for much of the carbon being emitted into our atmosphere. Business as usual? Not good enough.
At this point in time, it’s baffling that food and agriculture were not highlighted enough at Katowice. Approximately a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions can be traced to the agriculture industry, with meat and dairy responsible for a whopping 60% of that. A report issued in July calculated that the world’s leading meat and dairy producers emit as much greenhouse gas as the world’s top oil and gas giants do—but without the same degree of accountability. The numbers are astonishing, as is the fact that they’re so routinely overlooked. If we care about climate change, then it’s critical that we explore solutions within the food industry.
At Perfect Day, that’s central to our mission. Several recent reports have urged consumers to reduce the amount of meat and dairy they consume, especially in western countries. But it’s naive to assume that the world is ready to quit cold turkey (pun intended). The demands for dairy and meat are only projected to increase as global population grows, advancing the vicious cycle that animal agriculture imposes on our warming planet.
We eat for both pleasure and sustenance. We eat to feel strong and nourished, and to connect with friends, family, and culture. We can think of a lot of personal reasons not to give up meat and dairy: I need the protein. I love the taste. My grandmother’s recipe calls for cream, and so on. But, continuous consumption and production of these foods at current scale comes at a cost that impacts all of us.
What excites us at Perfect Day is that we want people to continue enjoying the dairy foods they love, and we’ve found a way to help that happen without compromising our climate future. How? By efficiently making dairy protein through the fermentation of microflora, which requires fewer resources and emits substantially fewer emissions than factory farms. We know that our colleagues in the cell-based meat field have the same goals: to grow nutritious, familiar food that tastes great, without relying on animal agriculture.
Climate change requires urgent attention. Some experts estimate that we may only have 12 years to meaningfully change current practices to prevent catastrophic warming. We can agree that there are no silver bullets. The energy sector certainly has an important role to play, but so do food and agriculture. Innovating our food system is critical. We have the technology to make positive changes that would substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions—why not get started?
It’s easy to feel discouraged about our planet’s outlook for the future. But at Perfect Day we’re hopeful, because there are already many solutions on the horizon that are well on their way to becoming a reality. We’re proud to be leading one of them.