Report: 30% switch to plant proteins to save up to 728 m tons of CO2

Report: 30% switch to plant proteins to save up to 728 m tons of CO2
05 / 11 / 2023
By Marwa Nassar - -

A 30 percent switch to eating more plant proteins could could lead to net savings of 728 million tons of CO2e – which is equivalent to offsetting almost all emissions from global air travel in 2022, according to a new report by research consultancy Profundo commissioned by environmental group Madre Brava.

Moreover, this can save up to 18.9 cubic kilometers of water This is the equivalent to 7.5 million Olympic-size swimming pools worth of water every year, said the report.

This shift would also free up 3.4 sq. km of farmland, an area the size of India, land that can be returned to nature to boost biodiversity and absorb carbon emissions.

Nico Muzi, managing director of Madre Brava, said “In the current context of the triple crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and water scarcity, the benefits of a modest switch to plant proteins are huge. The current food system incentivizes producing and selling huge amounts of industrial meat, rather than more sustainable, healthier proteins. We need to turn the tide for our health and the health of our planet. Governments and food retailers can play a critical role in ensuring that sustainable proteins are the cheapest, easiest choice for consumers when doing their food shop.”

In terms of animal welfare, the 30% shift to plant proteins would save the lives of 100 million cows, 420 million pigs and over 22 billion chickens per year. This is equivalent to sparing all the cows alive today in the United States.

Plant protein production, in general, uses a tiny fraction of land compared to animal meat production, thus drastically reducing deforestation and protecting biodiversity. Moreover, plant protein production uses a lot less water, causes less water and air pollution, eliminates the risks of antibiotic resistance and zoonotic pandemics and lowers public health burdens associated with red meat consumption.

The projected shift to plant proteins modelled by Profundo applies only to the regions of the world with meat consumption above that recommended by widely accepted health and science assessments.  For instance, Americans and Canadians eat six times as much red meat as recommended by leading health scientists and nutritionists at EAT-Lancet, while EU and UK citizens as well as Argentinians and Brazilians eat four times as much.

Thus, the 30% switch from meat to plant alternatives is moderate as people will still be able to eat more red meat than recommended by health experts.

Meat consumption around the globe has increased dramatically in the past few decades. High rates of meat consumption are concentrated in a few regions; more than 100 kilograms (kg) per person per year in countries like the United States, Australia, Argentina, and Brazil; an average of 75kg in the EU and the UK; and less than 5 kg in India, Bangladesh or Burundi.

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