Climate impact of beef could be cut by over 60% if cities demanded change of global supply chains

Embargo: 00.01 Friday 7 December 2018
Caterina Brandmayr Caterina BrandmayrHead of climate policy020 7630
Climate impact of beef could be cut by over 60% if cities demanded change of global supply chains
Cities’ joint purchasing power would accelerate climate action, says think tank

This week, at the COP24 in Katowice, world leaders are under pressure to address climate change and act on the IPCC’s recent warning that to limit warming to 1.5°C requires “rapid and far-reaching systems transitions occurring during the coming one to two decades, in energy, land, urban, and industrial systems.”
New analysis of 79 global cities, Consumption emissions: the new frontier for climate action by cities, by the think tank Green Alliance, shows that cities could play a much bigger role in cutting carbon, addressing up to twice as many emissions, if they joined together to tackle the climate impact of their consumption and influence the decarbonisation of global supply chains.
While the cities’ climate policies mainly focus on activities inside their boundaries, their consumption of vast amounts of imported goods and services generates a further 2.2GtCO2e beyond their borders. This is roughly the same amount the emissions produced within the cities.
In the case of beef, responsible for almost 10% of global emissions, the study shows that collaboration between groups of cities across the world could lower the climate impact of their beef consumption by over 60%.

Some cities are taking action alone. For example, Paris has committed to cutting meat in its public procurement by a fifth by 2020. But, while action by a single city is welcome, collaboration could accelerate and magnify effective emission cutting strategies. For example:
  • Greater joint purchasing power could support the uptake of plant-based meat alternatives (which can have 90% lower emissions than beef) through large scale public and corporate procurement across cities;
  • Co-operation between their research institutions and joint buying power could help to commercialise low carbon beef production, through measures such as selective breeding and novel feeds that lower the methane emissions from cattle by up to 80%.
The report shows that similarities in city consumption patterns also provides scope for collaboration on other high emitting sectors, like car manufacturing, rice production, electronics, shipping and aviation.
Caterina Brandmayr, an author of the report, said
“Tackling the impacts of consumption beyond their own borders gives cities new scope to lead on climate action and ensure they’re doing all they can to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. Beef production is a great example of how cities could join together to cut carbon in global supply chains.
Given the scale of city consumption, working collaboratively on this challenge means cities can have the same level of impact on lowering emissions as major nations like India and Japan.”
Caterina Brandmayr, policy analyst – energy and resources, Green Alliance (available for interview), 020 7630 4516
Report: Consumption emissions: the new frontier for climate action by cities
About Green Alliance:
Green Alliance is a charity and independent think tank focused on ambitious leadership for the environment. Since 1979, it has been working with a growing network of influential leaders in business, NGOs and politics to stimulate new thinking and dialogue on environmental policy, and increase political action and support for environmental solutions in the UK.
Consumption-based emissions                
A city’s consumption based emissions are those derived from the supply chains for the goods and services imported for consumption by its residents.
Consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions are often proportionately much more than those arising from activities within a city boundary. This is particularly true for cities in Europe, North America and Oceania, reflecting both the higher levels of consumption in those cities, and the global nature of supply chains of the goods and services they use. 
Most cities’ climate strategies have so far focused on emissions generated within their boundaries.
Based on their consumption-based emissions, the 79 C40 cities studied combined are the fourth biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, below China, the US and the EU.

Related content