New Zealand has eliminated ‘plant-based’ diets from the climate report
Marc Daalder is a Wellington-based senior political journalist covering Covid-19, climate change, energy, resource industries, technology and the far right. Twitter: @marcdaalder.
New Zealand diplomats helped remove references to the need for ‘plant-based’ diets from the influential latest summary of the latest IPCC report, reports Marc Daalder
Climate Change Minister James Shaw said officials may have given the impression that New Zealand was protecting big polluters “at the expense of the climate”. The comments come after he demanded an explanation please when Newsroom revealed diplomats objected to the use of the term ‘plant-based foods’ in an international climate report.
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicates that switching to plant-based diets is one of the most effective demand-side measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse effect.
While the term “plant-based” appears over 50 times in the report itself, it is only mentioned once, in a footnote, in the influential summary for policymakers. That’s because New Zealand’s representatives at the IPCC summit who endorsed the line-by-line summary joined other farming nations in watering down the language.
Coverage of the negotiations by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin – the only media authorized to attend the event – clearly shows that New Zealand has opposed the use of the term ‘plant-based’ in favor of ‘healthy diets’. and durable” in at least two sections. of the summary of the report.
Both focused on reducing demand for products from high-emitting activities. The first, on how products are presented to consumers, saw “plant-based foods” replaced by “healthy, balanced and sustainable diets”. India and Kenya joined New Zealand in removing reference to vegan and vegetarian diets, while Germany unsuccessfully opposed the measure.
A footnote linked to the mention of sustainable and balanced diets states that they “promote all dimensions of health and well-being of individuals; have low pressure and low impact on the environment; are accessible, affordable, safe and equitable; and are culturally acceptable, as described in FAO and WHO. The related concept of healthy diets refers to diets that include plant-based foods, such as those made from coarse grains, pulses, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and foods of animal origin produced under resilient, sustainable and low GHG emission systems, as described in [the IPCC special report on land].”
In the second instance, a reference to “plant-based foods” on a table on lifestyle changes that could reduce emissions from the food sector was replaced with “healthy, balanced and sustainable diets”. Sweden argued for keeping the term, but was overruled by New Zealand and a host of other countries. The authors of the report reiterated during the negotiations that “the literature is very clear that the potential for mitigation lies in switching from animal to plant proteins”.
A spokesman for the Ministry of the Environment argued in favor of deleting the term plant origin. They said the term “healthy and sustainable diets” is used by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization and reiterated that all governments must ultimately endorse the terminology.
While a Shaw spokesperson initially declined to comment on the matter, the minister provided a comment after publication Saturday morning.
“It’s the first time I’ve heard of it and I’ve asked officials for an explanation,” he said. After speaking with officials, he accepted their explanation but feared it created a misleading impression.
“Officials have also pushed for language to promote food and production choices that can drive emissions reductions, such as tackling overconsumption, food loss and waste,” he said.
“However, in my view, whatever the merits of this case, New Zealand should avoid taking positions in these negotiations that could give the impression that we are working to protect our biggest industries at the expense of the climate. “We very strongly oppose efforts by oil states to protect their fossil fuel industries. We should strive to avoid any similar conflicts of interest. I will discuss this further with officials next week.”
The Summary for Policymakers is the most read part of every IPCC report. As the full document is nearly 3,000 pages, most politicians and officials only read the executive summary – or only read briefing notes prepared from the executive summary. Although the references to plant-based diets remain in the report itself, they will carry less weight than if they were repeated in the executive summary as originally written.
Lines are only included in the summary if each government signs them.
Greenpeace agricultural campaigner Christine Rose called the revelation “shameful”.
“In addition to the New Zealand government’s failure to take concrete action to reduce agricultural climate pollution here at home, they are also working to sabotage global efforts to do the same,” she said.
“It smacks of the influence of the meat and dairy industry, and we challenge Climate Minister James Shaw to stop New Zealand officials undermining critical efforts to avert the climate crisis. The dairy industry Intensive is New Zealand’s biggest climate polluter and if this government is serious about climate action we must see a fundamental shift from industrial agriculture to regenerative plant-based organic agriculture.”
Rose said the decision showed the government was not acting on the basis of science.
“We need the best from our government and its representatives. Responses to climate change must be based on evidence, not scientific sabotage, in order to preserve the profits of the few from the status quo. This status quo is full steam ahead in the face of runaway climate change.”