Climate advocates are praising the Chinese government's new dietary guidelines designed to cut meat consumption in half—which would reduce the country's livestock-related carbon emissions by 1 billion tons by 2030.
Li Junfeng, director general of China’s National Center on Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, said that if China's population of 1.3 billion took up the new guidelines, released once every 10 years, "it is expected that the livestock industry will transform and carbon emissions will be reduced."
The average person in China currently eats 63 kilograms (138 lbs) of meat every year, which amounts to 28 percent of the world's meat. The Chinese Nutrition Society (CNS), in partnership with the advocacy groups WildAid, Climate Nexus, and My Plate My Planet, is now advocating that consumers reduce that to 27 kg (39 lbs). That would prompt a 1.5 percent drop in global emissions, more than France and Belgium's entire yearly output combined.
Notably, the average person in the U.S. eats twice as much meat as the average person in China.
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"Tackling climate change involves scientific judgement, political decisions, entrepreneurial support, but at last, it still relies on involvement of the general public to change the consumption behavior in China," Li said. "Every single one of us has to believe in the low-carbon concept and slowly adapt to it."
To encourage Chinese citizens to respond to the campaign, the CNS and WildAid have enlisted celebrities such as actor and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, American film director James Cameron, and Chinese actress and singer Li Bingbing to spread the word through public service commercials and other advertisements.
The campaign, launched with the tagline "Less Meat, Less Heat, More Life," comes after more than 170 nations signed the Paris Agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions and keep global temperature rise to under 2°C. It also coincides with a report by WildAid showing that livestock emissions account for 14.5 percent of total global greenhouse gas output.
"China's move to cut meat consumption in half would not only have a huge impact on public health, it is also a massive leadership step towards drastically reducing carbon emissions and reaching the goals set out in the Paris Agreement," Cameron said. "Livestock emits more than all transportation combined. Reducing demand for animal-based foods is essential if we are to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius as agreed at COP21."
Climate Nexus and My Plate My Planet will distribute English-language versions of the ads in the U.S., where there are currently no limits on meat consumption.