According to a new report, the 13 biggest dairy companies in the world have the same combined greenhouse gas emissions as the entirety of the UK. These include Amul, Le Groupe Lactalis, Saputo Inc., and Danone SA.
The report, published by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), is titled “Milking the Planet: How Big Dairy is heating up the planet and hollowing rural communities.”
Since the 2015 UN Paris Agreement, there has been an 11 percent increase in emissions from the dairy industry. This is primarily to do with the consolidation of the sector and the continued growth of giant companies.
This has also forced dairy prices below the cost of production, further impacting farmers and causing the need for further taxpayer subsidies. According to Shefali Sharma, the report author and the European director of IATP, the current global dairy crisis is unsustainable.
“Few of these companies are even reporting their emissions,” explains Sharma. “Little public pressure exists to hold global meat and dairy corporations accountable for their emissions.”
Limiting both overproduction and reliance on “mega-farms” could help support rural communities and mitigate dairy’s contribution to climate change. The report also suggests reducing supply chain emissions is essential in making improvements.
“Emissions from dairy animals in the supply chain account for over 90% of corporate dairy emissions. Yet, only three companies out of the 13 have pledged to address scope 3 (dairy supply chain) emissions to any degree,” continues Sharma.
Dairy and Climate Change
Scientific data indicates that the continued consumption of dairy and other animal products is a leading contributor to climate change. According to a 2018 study published in the journal Science, ditching dairy—and other animal products—is the “single biggest way to reduce your impact” on the environment.
“Agriculture is a sector that spans all the multitude of environmental problems,” said study leader Joseph Poore, speaking to The Guardian. “Really it is animal products that are responsible for so much of this. Avoiding consumption of animal products delivers far better environmental benefits than trying to purchase sustainable meat and dairy.”
In the UK, a new report published by the Committee on Climate Change indicates said that meat and dairy consumption must be reduced by a fifth, at least, to meet the British government’s 2050 Net Zero Target.
“As governments ratchet up their climate goals, the rise of large-scale dairy and public incentives that further increase corporate dairy power, production and emissions must be stopped,” adds Sharma. “Rural livelihoods and our planet’s future depend on it.”