EU policies need to support dietary shifts, sustainable farming to tackle climate change


EU policies need to support dietary shifts, sustainable farming to tackle climate change

13 March 2024
Press Release

As a new report stresses that Europe is not prepared for rapidly growing risks related to climate change, the EU action plan should include concrete policies that reduce the number of animals farmed for food, prioritising resilient farming practices with higher animal welfare and supporting a shift to plant-based diets.

In response to the publication of the first-ever European Climate Risk Assessment by the European Environment Agency (EEA), which analysed the risks of climate change in the EU and the areas which need to be imminently addressed, the European Commission (EC) has issued a Communication putting forward suggestions for actions in six impact clusters, among which are ecosystems and food.

Among the most severe risks that Europe is facing are the ones related to crop production: two-thirds of the EU’s agricultural land is used for animal production, of which most is for the production of crops for intensively farmed animalsFuture-proof and nature based solutions can only be achieved by raising fewer animals with higher welfare conditions. This is supported by a Harvard Law School study, published today, that clearly states that emissions from livestock production should fall rapidly as of 2025. 

While the EEA report clearly highlights that current EU policies fail to address climate risks effectively, the future of important EU legislative commitments that would improve resilience, such as the revision of the animal welfare legislation and the sustainable food systems framework, remain uncertain. 

The EC Communication recognises that actions towards sustainable agriculture and fishing will not be enough to address climate risks, and there is a need for long-term policies that support dietary shifts, making healthy and sustainable food affordable and accessible. It is therefore disappointing that the recently published 2040 climate target does not sufficiently recognise the role of shifting diets, or the significant impact of agricultural emissions from animal farming

With growing evidence that systematic shifts are required to address climate risks to food production, ecosystems and health, increased EU efforts and binding policies that can support this transition are imperative.

Repeatedly, science shows us that maintaining the status quo is not an option. Only by raising fewer animals with higher welfare conditions and creating food environments that support dietary shifts can the EU truly address imminent climate risks. Unfortunately the proposed derogations in the CAP’s environmental measures will lead us further away from climate change adaptation and resilience. To support the transition and investments in future-proof solutions, the EC must come forward with the promised legislative proposals on animal welfare and the framework for sustainable food systems, without further delays.

Camilla Björkbom, Food Policy Political Adviser, Eurogroup for Animals.