Alt-meat could help halve emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030, according to a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The report’s authors say that even if fossil fuel emissions were eliminated overnight, the emissions from food production alone would likely make it impossible to stay within the Paris agreement target of 1.5°C of warming. They say that the most effective way to reduce emissions would be the widespread adoption of plant-based diets.
Investment is imperative
However, a 14% rise in global meat production is currently expected by 2029. Products made using precision fermentation, cultivated animal cells, and plant-based proteins could help slash emissions, but far more investment is needed to make this possible.
The report’s scientists acknowledge that cultivated meat is much more sustainable than traditional meat, but point out that the industry is currently in its infancy and is heavily dependent on investments. Additionally, regulatory approval for cultivated products has not yet been granted in the vast majority of countries. As a result, much more funding and innovation will be needed to make these products competitive with conventional meat.
Finally, the report points out that switching to alternative proteins has other benefits beyond reducing emissions. For example, it is better for animal welfare, lowers the risk of zoonotic diseases, reduces pesticide and antibiotic use, and cuts air, water, and land pollution.
Plant-based diets and the environment
The IPCC report supports conclusions made by several other recent studies. In January, data showed that a vegan world would require 75% less farmland than is currently used, while other research said plant-based diets could provide a “double climate dividend” because the land freed up could be used for rewilding. The same month, a scientific review by Unilever concluded that plant-based diets should be adopted for sustainability and public health.