Livestock generate about 32% of anthropogenic, or human-generated, methane, mainly from the planet’s billion-plus cattle. Climate scientists have warned that methane is playing an ever greater role in global heating. Cutting methane emissions, it has been said, is the strongest lever we have to slow climate heating over the next 25 years.
Failure to take action on methane emissions by the world’s biggest meat and dairy companies is fuelling the climate crisis, say campaigners.
The new ranking, published today, names the three worst-performing meat and dairy corporations as two French companies – Groupe Bigard and Lactalis – and the Japanese company Itoham. The ranking was based on an examination of the companies’ climate targets “to see if they had any methane action plans or reporting and to see what research they were doing”, said Nuša Urbancic of Changing Markets Foundation, the ranking’s co-author. Urbancic added that meat and dairy corporations were being “given a free pass by governments”.
Even companies that ranked best – Switzerland’s Nestlé, France’s Danone and New Zealand’s Fonterra – were doing too little, said the report.
For example, none of the 20 companies, which together represent the “vast majority” of livestock sector emissions, have concrete methane reduction targets, it said. The company closest to having a methane action plan, the ranking found, was Nestlé, although it failed to “include any milestones or key performance indicators”.
Although more than half the ranked companies were undertaking research into methane reduction, mainly via methane-reducing feed, the report said none appeared to be contemplating lowering animal numbers or replacing animals with other protein sources.
New Zealand is the only country to pass legislation to cut greenhouse gases from livestock, but with farming emissions still rising, the government has been advised cow numbers will need to be cut to meet targets.