Food System Overhaul Now Critically Urgent for Climate

Drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in our food and farming systems are needed to avoid the worst outcomes of the climate crisis.

Urgent, ambitious action is needed in order to stay within a temperature rise of 1.5°C, the latest IPCC report has warned. Moving away from industrial animal agriculture is an essential step to achieving the goals set out in the Paris Agreement and meeting climate reduction obligations. The Vegan Society is calling for a transition to plant-based farming and food systems, which is integral to achieving the level of action the United Nations is calling for to turn around the climate crisis.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the final part of its Sixth Assessment Report on Monday. The Synthesis Report brings together key messaging from previous work and states that “the pace and scale of what has been done so far, and current plans, are insufficient to tackle climate change”.

Industrial farming of animals is the most polluting and resource-intensive way to produce food. As such, the IPCC have explicitly highlighted that, of possible dietary patterns, plant-based vegan-friendly diets have the highest greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation potential. A transition towards plant-based food and farming will significantly lower climate change risks, by reducing gas emissions and enabling increased tree cover.

Aditi Mukherji, one of the 93 authors of the recent Synthesis Report, explains that “those who have contributed least to climate change are being disproportionately affected”. The Global North are responsible for around 90% of the excess CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere and therefore have a responsibility to cut emissions enough to keep the world below the 1.5°C target.

During last year’s UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties, COP27, the Vegan Society called for consistent leadership from the Global North in the shift towards plant-based food systems. Examples of this can be seen in countries such as Portugal and Canada; in Portugal, legislation has been passed requiring plant-based meals on every public sector menu, whilst Canada’s on-going investment in legume farming means about 20% of arable land is now in crop rotations, compared to 1% across Europe.

Greater emphasis needs to be placed on changing our food systems if we wish to reduce the damage predicted as a result of global temperature increases. Countries in the Global North must pass legislation to increase accessibility to plant-based foods and invest in supporting farmers interested in making the transition to sustainable plant-based techniques.

The Vegan Society explains their vision for a fairer food system for everyone;

“How each one of us gets the right food is the shared concern of us all, including farmers, food supply workers and politicians. Food and farming policy needs social values embedded within it, and coherent links with economic, health and environment policy across all government and policymaking bodies.

We all need agriculture and food systems which improve our health and working conditions, our society and natural environment. We need a Great Food Transformation. What we are proposing is not a compromise: it is a better way of life for all.”

The IPCC report delivers a stark warning that there is a “rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all”. Food is vital to everyone and the importance of our agricultural systems cannot be overlooked in the fight against climate change. A shift from animal to plant-based agriculture is one of the most significant steps countries in the Global North can take to ensure a liveable planet.

For further information on how we can successfully shift to plant-based food systems, visit The Vegan Society’s Grow Green: and Planting Value in Our Food System: