Consume less meat and dairy in the world’s richest countries would help reduce polluting emissions by more than 60% during agricultural production, in addition to improving the health of the population, indicates research published this week in the scientific journal "Nature Foods".

"If we reduce meat consumption, land is also ‘freed up’ to produce other crops, which would greatly relieve ecosystems and improve food security around the world", explains Martin Bruckner, adjunct professor at the Vienna University of Economics (WU) and one of the study’s authors.

In statements to Efe, Bruckner details that these "liberated lands" they could capture some 100,000 million tons of CO2, which would help limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, the main objective of the recent COP26 climate conference in Glasgow (United Kingdom).

The study titled "Diet change in high-income nations may lead to double climate benefit", analyzes the environmental impact of the so-called planetary health diet in 54 high-income countries.

MORE SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE AND LIVESTOCK

The planetary health diet is based especially on vegetables and on a lower consumption of products of animal origin, sugars and saturated fat.

Although the production of vegetables and vegetables also influences the advance of global warming, the researchers propose several strategies to make it less harmful to the environment.

"The most obvious and simple way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to reduce the main sources, i.e. animal husbandry (particularly cattle), rice production and land use change (from forests or grassland to cropland)"Bruckner maintains.

Furthermore, if richer countries reduced their meat consumption, farmland could return to its natural state, capturing 100 billion tons of CO2, which is equivalent to about 14 years of total emissions from agriculture.

However, for Bruckner, the effectiveness of these measures, as well as the results of the investigation, are limited by the current agricultural policies of the European Union (EU).

"The prerequisite for this is that the released areas are not used for other purposes, such as the production of export goods or other agricultural raw materials, which is quite unlikely.", he laments.

A POLITICAL CHANGE

The EU is the world’s largest exporter of pork and pork products. Only Germany, Spain and France account for half of this production, highlights the study.

If these countries do not reduce production and acknowledge with "honesty" the gravity of the situation, "the world will be unable to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees"Bruckner warns.

"Either Western countries reduce their meat consumption in a controlled way or climate change will sooner or later reduce world food production and force the whole world to reduce its consumption", he assures.

This change in diets, inevitably associated with a political change, requires considering agrarian reform policies and climate measures together, explains the study published by "Nature Foods".

MOST EFFECTIVE MEASURES

The economic development of some countries goes hand in hand with the exploitation and deforestation of natural spaces to extract or produce products, he adds.

For this reason, the policies proposed must also contemplate new sources of income for the large exporting countries.

This is the case of Brazil and Argentina, which according to Bruckner "they will need to find other income for their agricultural producers, which in recent decades have grown rapidly and destroyed large parts of ecosystems such as the Amazon or the Cerrado".

"Avoiding climate catastrophe will require changes to our lifestyles and economies beyond buying local produce and putting solar panels on the roofs of buildings."Bruckner concludes.

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