Put ‘cows alongside cars’ at COP23, investors urge

With COP23 set to start in Bonn next week, an investor network is calling on developed countries to prioritise the "elephant in the room" at the UN talks, by tackling livestock sector emissions.

The Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR) network is backed by members including Robeco, Aviva and the Triodos Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) funds, who collectively manage more than $4trn in assets. Network members will appear in Bonn next week to call on governments to prioritise reduction actions in the livestock sector.

Farming and livestock management is accountable for approximately 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, around 0.5% more than the global transport sector’s emissions. The FAIRR network, which acts as an investor forum for the material impacts of farming and animal welfare, has called on delegates at Bonn to focus on livestock over cars and transport.

The FAIRR Initiative’s founder Jeremy Coller said: “It’s two years since Paris rang the starting bell on the low carbon transition and investors have tended to focus on high-emitting sectors like energy, transport and extractives.

“Investors should not overlook the livestock sector where some of the biggest climate risks and opportunities exist. It’s the elephant in the room in Bonn – especially for developed countries who still drive an unsustainable level of demand for animal protein.”

The FAIRR Initiative claims that delegates and governments at COP23 will be “fluent” in recent developments in the transport sector, such as the growth of electric vehicles (EVs). The group argues that the world relies on “outdated technology” and pigs and cows to source protein demand. Specifically, Coller claimed that “the next stage of the Paris talks must put cows alongside cars”.

Not a single developed country has outlined a detailed plan to tackle livestock emissions as part of an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), which were issued for the Paris Agreement. Neither meat processing or the distribution sector are mentioned in any INDCs despite accounting for 1% of global emissions.

FAIRR analysis found that the ten developed countries with the highest-emitting agricultural sectors have collective emissions equivalent to consuming 1.6 billion barrels of oil. The US, Australia and France are the top three nations in this area, while the UK is sixth.

The Carbon Trust struck a deal with World Bank Group member International Finance Corporation (IFC) to enhance productivity and reduce emissions in the livestock supply chain. It will support a pilot scheme aimed at enhancing the resource efficiency of Brazil’s beef sector and its supply chain, which is responsible for an estimated 40% of the countries national GHG emissions.

What’s going on in Bonn?

The United Nations Climate Change Conference takes place in Bonn, Germany from 6-17 November. Delegates from nations that have ratified the Paris Agreement (including the US), across civil society, industry and governments will convene at the event. In total, more than 20,000 delegates are expected.

Bonn will provide crucial insight on how nations plan to plug an emissions gap created by the President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, although the nation can’t formally withdraw until the day after the next presidential election as a grace period is required.

However, Bonn serves as more of an appetiser to December 2018’s COP24 climate summit in Katowice, Poland. This year’s conference will provide clarity on the structure of the “Facilitative Dialogue”, which aims to check countries’ progress towards the targets agreed in Paris in 2015. It won’t be until 2018 that an official roadmap for each country is launched.

The city of Bonn has several electric and hybrid buses in service, while specialised COP23 electric shuttles that run on 100% renewable energy will connect a new UN Campus train stop to the conference zones. Furthermore, the German Environment Ministry had organised an EV shuttle service through the nearby the Rheinaue park. The conference is also seeking to use 80% renewable energy for the duration of the event.

Matt Mace

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