According to one of the world’s largest consulting firms, investments in plant-based meat alternatives have resulted in far greater reductions in climate-warming emissions than other green investments. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report found that investments in improving and expanding the production of meat and dairy substitutes resulted in three times as much greenhouse gas reductions as investments in green cement technologies and seven times as much as green buildings. times, eleven times that of a zero-emission vehicle.
Investments in plant-based meat alternatives have such a large impact on emissions because there is a big difference in the greenhouse gases emitted when producing conventional meat and dairy products versus growing plants. For example, beef emits six to thirty times more than tofu. Investment in alternative proteins, which also include fermented products and cellular meat, has jumped from $1bn (£830m) in 2019 to $5bn in 2021, BCG said.
Alternatives account for 2% of meat, egg and dairy sales, but on current growth trends will rise to 11% in 2035, the report said. This will reduce emissions by almost the equivalent of global aviation production. But BCG says meat substitutes will grow faster as technological advances lead to better products, production scales up and regulatory changes make marketing and sales easier.
Meat and dairy production uses 83 percent of farmland and is responsible for 60 percent of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, but provides only 18 percent of calories and 37 percent of protein. Shifting human diets from meat to plants means less forest is destroyed to grow pasture and fodder, and cattle and sheep produce less methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
According to another BCG report in 2021, Europe and North America will reach a “peak meat” in 2025, when consumption of conventional meat will begin to decline. Another consultancy, AT Kearney, predicted in 2019 that most of the meat products people eat in 2040 will not come from slaughtered animals.
Scientists believe that avoiding meat and dairy products is the biggest way to reduce environmental impact on the planet, and massive cuts in meat consumption in rich countries are critical to ending the climate crisis. The Project Drawdown group, which evaluates climate solutions, placed plant-based diets in the top three of nearly 100 options.