Fifteen of the world’s top agribusinesses have a methane footprint equal to 80% of the European Union’s emissions of the super-potent greenhouse gas, says a new report by the Changing Markets Foundation and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
Titled “Emissions Impossible,” the report presents a first-of-its-kind estimate of the methane emissions of five of the world’s largest meat companies, and 10 of their dairy equivalents. It comes on the heels of news that 50 more countries have signed on to the Global Methane Pledge, which was launched at COP 26 in Glasgow with the support of 100 signatories.
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Included in the report are Brazil-based JBS, China-based WH Group, and France-based Lactalis, the world’s largest beef, pork, and dairy companies, respectively.
Taken together, the combined methane emissions of the 15 companies are about 12.8 million tonnes. That’s more than 80% of the European Union’s entire methane footprint, and far exceeds the footprints of countries like Russia, Canada, Australia, and Germany.
Methane is about 85 times more potent a climate pollutant than carbon dioxide over 20 years, the crucial time span in which humanity will be scrambling to get the climate emergency under control.
JBS’ emissions alone “exceed the combined livestock methane emissions of France, Germany, Canada, and New Zealand or compare to 55% of U.S. livestock methane,” while Brazil-based Marfrig (the second-largest producer of beef) “rival those of Australia’s entire livestock sector.”
Overall, “if these 15 companies were treated as a country, they would be the tenth-largest GHG-emitting jurisdiction in the world.”
Despite their grotesque footprint, nine out of the 15 companies studied either fail to report GHG emissions at all. None report their supply chain methane emissions.
“In the absence of strong disclosure rules, voluntary climate targets and reporting are leading to pervasive levels of greenwashing,” the report authors warn. “Mandatory reporting and independent verification are essential to gauge whether corporate net-zero and other climate targets are even in the ballpark of limiting warming to 1.5°C.”
They report adds that getting serious about slashing livestock methane will require “systemic transformation” that will, in turn, require “a holistic understanding of the drivers of mass industrial animal production and multiple policy interventions to reduce the number of animals used for meat and dairy production.”
Such interventions cannot be advanced on the backs of individual farmers. “A comprehensive set of regulations is needed to ensure that the burden for emissions reduction rests on corporations that shape and drive the supply chain,” , the authors stress. “Farmers within and outside these corporate supply chains must be supported to play a critical role in a sequenced, deliberate, and just transition out of mass industrial livestock production towards agroecological systems that are healthy for the planet and people.”