The Chinese government has outlined a plan to reduce its citizens’ meat consumption by 50%, in a move that climate campaigners hope will provide major heft in the effort to avoid runaway global warming.
New dietary guidelines drawn up by China’s health ministry recommend that the nation’s 1.3 billion population should consume between 40g to 75g of meat per person each day. The measures, released once every 10 years, are designed to improve public health but could also provide a significant cut to greenhouse gas emissions.
The Chinese Communist party has found unusual allies among Hollywood celebrities, with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and director James Cameron involved in a series of new public information adverts encouraging Chinese people to consume less animal flesh to help the environment.
Should the new guidelines be followed, carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from China’s livestock industry would be reduced by 1bn tonnes by 2030, from a projected 1.8bn tonnes in that year.
Globally, 14.5% of planet-warming emissions emanate from the keeping and eating of cows, chickens, pigs and other animals – more than the emissions from the entire transport sector. Livestock emit methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, while land clearing and fertilizers release large quantities of carbon.