The meat industry and lobby groups, including JBS, the world’s largest meat company, prepare to influence the dialogue at the COP28 climate conference in Dubai, advocating for a pro-meat stance in the face of increasing environmental concerns.

The Global Meat Alliance (GMA), an industry-funded organisation, has outlined a strategy highlighting “scientific evidence” supportive of the meat industry’s position.

The move comes at a time when meat and dairy companies face increasing scrutiny due to the substantial greenhouse gas footprints. The dairy industry is spotlighted for its contribution to 3.4% of global human-induced emissions, surpassing the share attributed to aviation.

Animal agriculture, a major focus of the Global Meat Alliance, is identified as the largest emitter of methane, a greenhouse gas 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Scientists warn that without prompt action, methane emissions from agriculture alone could contribute to a temperature rise beyond the critical 1.5°C (2.7°F) threshold.

Jennifer Jacquet, a professor of environmental science and policy at the University of Miami, notes that meat and dairy companies intensify their efforts in response to increasing exposure and scrutiny. She observes that they are now more prepared in shaping their narrative, an effort to influence global policymaking.

Nusa Urbancic, CEO of the Changing Markets Foundation, described the industry’s reluctance to embrace genuine emissions reduction efforts. Urbancic highlighted that any attempt to cut emissions in the food sector would lead to a decrease in meat and dairy production, a prospect the would disturb the industry.

Urbancic’s argument is that the meat and dairy industry is employing various tactics to postpone the inevitable changes in production volume.

A leaked set of documents reveal that the industry plans a significant presence at COP28. In the previous COP27, JBS gained access to talks by being part of Brazil’s national delegation. The presence raised concerns about the influence these companies wield on international climate discussions.

Companies from the meat sector attending the summit will be accompanied by lobby groups representing them. Notably, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), representing large meat producers in the US, has a history of obstructive actions, including questioning on its website whether climate change was caused by humans.

The leaked documents focus on the meat sector and indicate that dairy companies are preparing to send a large delegation to COP28. Earlier this year, pressure from countries with interests in the meat industry resulted in the dilution of recommendations on diets by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Companies and trade groups attending COP28 are advised in the leaked documents to focus on a key strategy: “equip delegates with key messages and solutions.” A list of these messages is provided in the materials, indicating a coordinated effort to shape the narrative around the benefits of meat consumption.

Collaborations for the event itself are outlined in the files, with meat lobbying groups planning to host events at country pavilions, including those of the US and Australia. Australia and the US, the second and third-largest global beef exporters after Brazil, have strong economic interests in supporting the growth of their meat industries, along with close political ties.

Recent studies found that in the EU, meat and dairy farmers received 1,200 times more public funding than new alternative protein sources. They received 800 times more support in the US.

Professor Jennifer Jacquet points out the importance of addressing the close relationship between governments and the meat industry as a significant step in aligning diets with climate goals. She notes that discussions often focus on demand-side interventions, such as encouraging schools or individuals to reduce meat consumption.

However, Professor Jacquet expresses concern that the substantial production in the meat industry, supported by subsidies and policies, may persist even with decreased demand.