Investors warn cows are new coal in emissions demand

A group of powerful Investors have called on the G20 governments to disclose how they will tackle the issue of agricultural emissions as they look towards the COP26 summit in November.

Global investor coalition the FAIRR Initiative and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have demanded G20 nations disclose specific targets to reduce agricultural emissions within their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) COP26.

In the ‘Where’s the Beef’ statement, an initial $5 trillion group of investors coordinated by the FAIRR Initiative, has called for greater transparency about how much of the emissions reductions planned in their NDCs will come from the agriculture sector. The statement has also been signed by Ban Ki-moon.

Agriculture currently accounts for a third of all global emissions. However, the group said none of the G20’s currently released national climate commitments (NDCs) include clear national targets for emissions reductions in the agriculture sector. This is not the case with other high-emitting sectors: 50% of updated NDCs of the G20 have targets for the energy sector and 20% for transport.

“Reaching net-zero emissions will be impossible without a radical overhaul of the agricultural sector, so investors are asking for clarity from world leaders about what role this often-overlooked sector will play in their decarbonisation plans if the trillions required for the low-carbon transition are to be successfully unlocked,” said the statement.

Jeremy Coller, Chair of FAIRR and Chief Investment Officer of Coller Capital said: “Cows are the new coal. The emissions from agriculture and related land use are on a level with the greenhouse gases emitted by the EU, US and Japan combined. If the COP26 process can transparently set out each country’s plans to address agriculture’s climate footprint, it would boost the confidence of investors to mobilise capital towards more sustainable food and farming. “

“If investors don’t know where they are going, anywhere will do. Reducing emissions without a roadmap for how to get there is not only ineffective but highly damaging for investors and companies keen to ensure a fair and equitable transition to a net-zero economy.

“Governments have the opportunity to show leadership and be transparent about how much of their climate pledges will be ring-fenced as coming from agriculture. Capital markets need that data. That’s why I’m joining today with investors managing $5 trillion in assets to warn that ‘cows are the new coal’ and ask G20 leaders: ‘Where’s the Beef?’”.

The statement is entitled “Where’s the Beef” as the agricultural sector includes beef production, the highest-emitting element of animal agriculture which alone is responsible for 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions. The agriculture sector as a whole is currently exposed to potentially devastating climate risks. Analysis shows, for example, that 40 of the world’s largest meat firms face losses of up to $11 billion from potential carbon taxation.

The coalition also highlighted that a lack of clear national targets is disincentivising climate action from agriculture firms. As the global regulatory landscape moves to accelerate decarbonisation, clear national targets for agriculture will lead to a more timely and better-managed transition for all.

Ban Ki-moon, eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations and one of the architects of the 2015 Paris Agreement, threw his support behind the investors and their concerns.

“Governments are making progress with ambitious pledges to reduce emissions, but if we are to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, countries must also say how they will tackle the high level of emissions from the agricultural sector as part of their national climate commitments,” he said. “I support investors and the ‘Where’s the Beef?’ campaign as governments submit updated climate plans ahead of COP26. Transparent emission reduction targets will help investors and wider stakeholders measure progress towards net zero and chart the transition to more sustainable agriculture. Governments must work with farmers to build a sustainable and climate-smart agricultural sector that safeguards the livelihoods and communities that rely on farming around the world.”

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