Cut meat consumption to two burgers a week to save planet, study suggests

Climate crisis report says ‘we are not winning in any sector’ as experts call for urgent action on fossil fuels

Meat consumption should be reduced to the equivalent of about two burgers a week in the developed world, and public transport expanded about six times faster than its current rate, if the world is to avoid the worst ravages of the climate crisis, research has suggested.

Rates of deforestation must also be rapidly reduced, and phasing out coal must happen about six times faster than is currently being managed. Heavy industries such as cement and steel are not moving fast enough in cutting their emissions, and the rapid growth of renewable energy and electric vehicle adoption must be maintained.

The State of Climate Action 2022 report examined global progress on 40 indicators that would be key to halving global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, in line with the goal of limiting temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The researchers found a gloomy picture, with just over half the indicators well off track and five heading in the wrong direction.

The indicators of most concern were the use of gas, which is increasing rapidly at a time when it should be reduced in favour of renewable energy; steel-making, where emissions-reduction technology is not being adopted fast enough; journeys taken in passenger cars; the rate of loss of mangrove forests; and emissions from agriculture.

Ani Dasgupta, the chief executive of the World Resources Institute, one of the organisations responsible for the report, pointed to the extreme weather seen around the world this year.

“The world has seen the devastation wrought by just 1.1C of warming. Every fraction of a degree matters in the fight to protect people and the planet. We are seeing important advances in the fight against climate change but we are still not winning in any sector,” he said.

Bill Hare, the chief executive of Climate Analytics, which also helped to produce the report, cautioned over the increasing use of gas for electricity generation around the world.

“What’s particularly worrying is the rise in fossil gas power generation despite the availability of low-cost and healthier alternatives,” he said. “The ongoing crisis resulting from shocks like the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shown very clearly how continued reliance on fossil fuels is not only bad for the climate but also comes with serious security and economic risks.”

The report, by the Systems Change Lab, a coalition of analyst organisations and charitable foundations, identified some bright spots. Solar power generation increased by nearly half between 2019 and 2021, while electric vehicles accounted for nearly one in 10 passenger cars sold in 2021, double the number the year before.

The analysis concluded that far greater investment was required to shift the global economy to a low-carbon footing: about $460bn a year for the next decade in additional funds would be needed, and governments must also stop their favourable treatment of fossil fuels.

The authors called for financial institutions to stop underwriting fossil fuel production and carbon-intensive industries. The report’s findings will be presented to governments at the Cop27 UN climate summit, which begins in Egypt next month.

Contributor

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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