A central theme of The Vegan Society’s work for the past decade, has been the benefits of transitioning to plant-based farming.
We don’t need to farm animals, and formerly farmed animals have much better lives in suitable sanctuaries.
A core environmental benefit of this transformation is that our land has the potential to absorb a significant proportion of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the Earth’s atmosphere. When we ’free up’ land from industrial animal farming, we are able to realise that GHG absorption potential. Restoring global tree cover could remove a crucial proportion of the atmospheric GHGs now driving the climate emergency.
We helped Dr Helen Harwatt and Dr Matthew Hayek launch their 2019 report, “Eating away at climate change with negative emissions: Repurposing UK agricultural land to meet climate goals” which shows how this works in a UK context. The UK is currently one of the least wooded countries of Europe. Yet, about five thousand years ago, up to 75% of the UK was covered with trees. By supporting UK tree cover to return now to the land currently grazed by farmed animals, we could re-absorb 9 years’ worth of UK carbon emissions.
So, we welcome the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use announced at the UN COP26 climate conference. The scale is significant: the signatory countries contain about 85% of Earth’s forested land. Only about 14% of the world’s woodlands are on Indigenous land and/or under community stewardship. In the Glasgow Declaration, signatory countries pledge to reduce deforestation by 2030.
However, we share the widely reported concerns about how this Declaration will be put into practice. In 2014, the signatories of the New York Declaration for Forests promised to cut deforestation by 50% by 2020, and completely end deforestation by 2030. Yet, despite some localised progress, we have collectively continued to reduce global tree cover.
The New York Declaration for Forests network, whilst they also welcome the Glasgow Declaration, have observed:
“We know the solutions needed to save and enhance forests, yet efforts still remain confined to a small niche and are often trumped by other short-term economic interests. Many decision-makers still shy away from the blunt reforms needed to achieve sustainable land use and consumption.”
Therefore, we add our voice to the call for real leadership from global decision-makers: embrace sustainable land use reforms. Global North Governments must lead the way in supporting land managers to transition towards plant-based techniques, so we can fully embrace the plant protein foods which will help end our reliance upon farming animals. That will free up the land we need – that was once before covered with trees – to be restored as climate-friendly woodlands. We have no time left to waste.
Learn more: “Achieving Climate Goals through Plant-Based Agriculture and Food”, our COP26 Policy briefing. The Vegan Society is at COP26.