The City of Darebin (pronounced Darr-e-bin) encompasses various suburbs to the north of Melbourne, from Northcote to Bundoora and from Coburg to Alphington. It recently invited community feedback to its draft climate emergency plan for the period 2017-2022.

If you are interested in seeing my response, it can be accessed by clicking the image below. This version contains a supplement with additional comments on pig meat, poultry, fish, egg and dairy products.

The city’s draft plan covered the following topics:

  1. Climate Emergency mobilisation and leadership
  2. Energy efficiency
  3. Renewable energy and fuel switching
  4. Zero emissions transport
  5. Waste minimisation
  6. Fossil fuel divestment
  7. Adaptation and resilience
  8. Engaging the community
  9. Darebin Energy Foundation

A glaring omission from my point of view was the issue of food choices.

I covered the following issues in my response:

  1. Food-related emissions
  2. Land clearing
  3. The Great Barrier Reef
  4. Links between climate change and the consumption of sea animals
  5. Health and nutrition
  6. Social justice
  7. Engaging with the community and advocating to state and federal governments

In relation to food-related emissions, my submission included the latest emissions intensity estimates for beef from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Figure 1 below compares the beef figures to those for aluminium (regarded as extremely emissions intensive and at one stage responsible for 16 per cent of Australia’s electricity consumption with a lower tonnage than beef production) and soy beans (as reported by researchers from Oxford University). [1] [2] [3] [4]

The figures have been updated from estimates the FAO published in 2013, which utilised a 2005 reference period and an earlier version of its Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model (GLEAM 1.0). [5]

The FAO’s latest reference period is 2010, using its updated model, GLEAM 2.0.

It used the IPCC’s 2013 100-year global warming potentials (GWPs), and I have calculated 20-year GWPs for the chart, using IPCC estimates and the FAO’s apportionment of the various greenhouse gases for each product. (The IPCC’s 20-year GWPs are more conservative than estimates from NASA researchers, who have allowed for aerosol interactions.) [6]

Figure 1: Emissions intensity of various products based on product weight (2010 reference period for animal-based products) [Footnote]

A pleasing aspect of responding to the city’s plan was pointing out that some high-profile, mainstream climate scientists have stressed the need to address the issue of animal-based food consumption. Here are some relevant extracts:

EXTRACT 1:

“In a 2013 paper, [James] Hansen and co-authors argued that it was feasible to draw down 100 gigatonnes of carbon through reforestation between 2031 and 2080. They noted: (a) because of extensive deforestation in earlier decades, there is a large amount of land suitable for reforestation; and (b) although reforestation competes with agricultural land use; land needs could decline by reducing use of animal products, as livestock now consume more than half of all crops.” [7]

EXTRACT 2:

“[Hansen, et al.] estimated a maximum sequestration potential of 1.6 gigatonnes of carbon per year through reforestation. With a conversion factor of 3.67, the estimate equates to around 5.9 gigatonnes of CO2 per year.

That exceeds the annual drawdown target of 5 gigatonnes of CO2 established in a “carbon law” articulated by a group of leading climate scientists in early 2017, which they indicated would provide a 50 per cent chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C by 2100 and a 66 per cent chance of limiting it to 2°C.

The authors (Johan Rockström, Owen Gaffney, Joeri Rogelj, Malte Meinshausen, Nebojsa Nakicenovic and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber) stated:

‘Agro-industries, farms, and civil society should develop a worldwide strategy for sustainable food systems to drive healthier, low-meat diets and reduce food waste.'” [8]

Another important aspect of the exercise is that the City of Darebin intends to actively engage with state and federal governments in relation to its aims. It has said, “a key part of our program is to take action to accelerate the process of getting these governments to declare a climate emergency and commit to programs of the necessary scope, scale and speed”.

Such action will provide additional leverage for the plan, including any feedback incorporated in the final version.

Conclusion

With no time to waste if we are to have any chance of overcoming the climate crisis, it is imperative that we use all tools at our disposal in our efforts to do so. The issue of food consumption and production offers one such tool, with some elements providing rapid benefits that would increase our chances of avoiding tipping points and runaway climate change.

I trust the City of Darebin includes the issue in the final version of its emergency plan, ultimately improving our ability to respond to the existential threat of climate change.

Author

Paul Mahony

Footnote

The chart appeared as Figure 2 in the submission.

References

[1]      UNFAO email correspondence of 21st April, 2nd May and 27th June 2017

[2]      Australian Aluminium Council Ltd, “Climate Change: Aluminium Smelting Greenhouse Performance”, http://aluminium.org.au/climate-change/smelting-greenhouse-performance

[3]     Hamilton, C, “Scorcher: The Dirty Politics of Climate Change”, (2007) Black Inc Agenda, p. 40

[4]     Scarborough, P., Appleby, P.N., Mizdrak, A., Briggs, A.D.M., Travis, R.C., Bradbury, K.E., & Key, T.J., “Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK”, Climatic Change, DOI 10.1007/s10584-014-1169-1

[5]      Gerber, P.J., Steinfeld, H., Henderson, B., Mottet, A., Opio, C., Dijkman, J., Falcucci, A. & Tempio, G., 2013, “Tackling climate change through livestock – A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities”, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome, Table 5, p. 24, http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/resources/en/publications/tackling_climate_change/index.htm ; http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3437e/i3437e.pdf

[6]      Shindell, D.T.; Faluvegi, G.; Koch, D.M.; Schmidt, G.A.; Unger, N.; Bauer, S.E. “Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions”, Science, 30 October 2009; Vol. 326 no. 5953 pp. 716-718; DOI: 10.1126/science.1174760, http://www.sciencemag.org/content/326/5953/716.figures-only

[7]      Hansen J, Kharecha P, Sato M, Masson-Delmotte V, Ackerman F, Beerling DJ, et al. (2013) Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature. PLoS ONE 8(12): e81648. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0081648

[8]      Rockström, J., O. Gaffney. J. Rogelj, M. Meinshausen, N. Nakicenovic, and H.J. Schellnhuber (2017) “A roadmap for rapid decarbonization”, Science 355: 1269-127, http://science.sciencemag.org/content/355/6331/1269.full and http://www.rescuethatfrog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Rockstrom-et-al-2017.pdf cited in Dunlop, I. and Spratt, D., “Disaster Alley: Climate Change Conflict and Risk, June 2017, https://www.breakthroughonline.org.au/disasteralley

Main image

Henry Patton | Active moulin | Flickr | Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)