EU Climate Action Hindered by Meat Lobby

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – London-based non-profit think tank InfluenceMap has published new research into the lobbying activities of European meat and dairy companies.  Released on 29 May 2024, The European Meat and Dairy Sector’s Climate Policy Engagement – How the meat and dairy industry is influencing the EU’s agenda to reduce the climate footprint of diets and livestock examines the corporate engagement activities of ten large companies and five industry associations towards European Union (EU) policymakers working on regulations aimed at reducing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the food and agriculture sector.

    The report will be of interest to institutional asset owners seeking to align their investment portfolios with Paris climate agreement pathways.  While the fossil fuel industry has rightly commanded attention as the main source of GHG emissions, there is a growing realisation that changes to food systems will be needed if global carbon and biodiversity targets are to be achieved.  The emissions from livestock farming alone account for 14% of global GHG emissions and include a high proportion of particularly damaging methane.  The actions of major meat and dairy producers keen to maintain their existing value chains may require closer scrutiny and engagement from institutional shareholders.  An unprecedented number of meat industry lobbyists attended the Dubai COP28 event in late 2023, which may have contributed to a favourable final statement that omitted the targets for the reduction in meat consumption that the industry had feared.

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    According to InfluenceMap, the European meat and dairy industry has successfully adopted tactics that mirror those of the fossil fuel industry to influence a trend towards backsliding on climate and environmental policy in Europe.  The report reveals a concerted effort to promote two core narratives aimed at countering the conclusions reached by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its 2019 Special Report on Climate Change and Land Use.  The first narrative seeks to emphasize the importance of livestock to society in terms of nutrition, health, and affordability.  The second set of messages are aimed at distancing livestock farming from being viewed as a driver of climate change.  In spreading these two narratives, the European meat and dairy companies and their industry associations appear to have largely succeeded in weakening food system climate policymaking in the EU.

    Commenting on the release of the analysis Venetia Roxburgh, EU program lead at InfluenceMap said: “Meat and dairy producers and the industry associations representing them appear to be borrowing tactics and narratives from the fossil fuel playbook in order to hold back policies to tackle its GHG emissions.  Following obstructive behaviour from the industry, and the infiltration of industry narratives in the EU Parliament and EU Commission, policies that are fundamental to reducing GHG emissions in line with scientific advice have been significantly weakened or have stalled.  Without science-based policies tackling the sector, it does not seem likely that European agricultural GHG emissions will reduce in line with 1.5°C.”

    During 2023 negotiations over the proposed EU Nature Restoration Law (NRL) saw a coordinated campaign of opposition overseen by the European People’s Party (EPP) and other right-wing political groups.  According to InfluenceMap, the messages being disseminated by the EPP closely reflect those of the meat and dairy industry that are revealed in this latest report, and are directly opposed to the science-based IPCC recommendations on land use and its effects on climate change.

    The InfluenceMap analysis points to meat producers as the most aggressive lobbyists, with none of them aligned with IPCC policy recommendations.  The broader based consumer food companies such as Nestlé and Unilever are better aligned, but nevertheless come under criticism of their membership of industry associations that systematically lobby against food and agriculture-related climate action.

    Image courtesy of Sergey Kotenev on Unsplash
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