One of the early, attention-grabbing announcements at November’s COP climate conference in Glasgow was a commitment by more than 105 countries to join a U.S.- and E.U.-led coalition to cut 30% of methane emissions by 2030.
The potent greenhouse gas, which is up to 80 times more effective at heating the planet than carbon dioxide in the short term, has often been considered the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to slowing down global warming.
The COP pledges alone would slash warming projections by 0.2°C by the 2040s, according to the United Nations Global Methane Assessment.
But a new report suggests that the meat and dairy industries (including livestock suppliers to McDonalds, Walmart and Costco) is undermining COP26 pledges on methane reduction, by not tracking their own emissions and by failing to track those of their third-party suppliers.
Cows and other ruminants release methane as a byproduct of their digestive process. A single cow can release around 250-500 liters of methane a day. More methane is produced when the animals’ waste is collected in holding ponds, a typical practice for large scale industrial meat producers.
The one billion cows used in the global meat and dairy industries, combined with other animals raised for livestock, are responsible for releasing the methane equivalent of some 3.1 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year—accounting for some 44% of global anthropogenic methane.
If the global livestock industry were its own country, it's estimate that it would be the world’s third-biggest greenhouse gas emitter, falling between U.S. and India when it comes to total greenhouse gas emissions.