World Environment Day is one of the most important events on the United Nations calendar and is held annually in more than 100 countries across the globe. The theme for this year’s World Environment Day was “Kick the ‘Carbon’ Habit”.
On June 5, 2008, New Zealand played host to a gathering of the world’s leading environmentalists, scientists and government delegates in Wellington, the country’s capital, in observance of this special day.
The event featured a special press conference to address the greatest crisis facing humanity – climate change. Present at this meeting were New Zealand’s Environment Minister the Honorable Trevor Mallard, New Zealand’s Minister for Climate Change the Honorable David Parker, Mr. Achim Steiner, the UN’s Under Secretary General and UN Environment Program Executive Director, the President of Kiribati the Honorable Anote Tong, and Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chief of the UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change.
Hon. Trevor Mallard – New Zealand’s Minister for the Environment: It is a real pleasure for New Zealand and it’s an honor that we are hosting such a significant event. It’s really helped us stimulate large numbers of New Zealanders to become involved in celebrations and activities right around the country, over 120 schools, Kiwi community groups, will today be planting trees and gardens, building or repairing walkways or cycle tracks or educating others on how to better take care of our environment.
HOST: Kiribati is an island nation located in the Pacific Ocean and composed of low-lying islands that are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels. President Tong spoke about his country’s fragile situation and how other island nations are facing similar potential outcomes.
President Tong of Kiribati: Kiribati’s highest point in our island is about an average of two meters above sea level. We may be at the point of no return, where the emissions in the atmosphere will carry on with the momentum, will carry on to contribute to climate change, to sea level rise to the extent that in time, our small, low island will be submerged.
It’s not an issue of economic growth; it’s an issue of human survival. For some at this point in time, if the world community, the different countries don’t kick the carbon habit, there’ll be another country next on the line.
Mr. Achim Steiner (United Nation’s Under Secretary General and UN Environment Program Executive Director): Maybe there are many countries who will not immediately face the prospects of Kiribati, but indeed there are many island nations who are doomed already now, by the end of this century, to disappear.
And that is just the beginning of the visible impact of climate change. The invisible part, the bits that we have not necessarily understood that are happening around us are also on their way.
HOST: The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) focuses on the scientific and strategic dimensions of curbing the climate change. The IPCC successfully reached a consensus with 2,500 scientists from more than 130 countries for its report making the strongest link to date in 2007 between mankind's activities and global warming.
Along with Former US Vice President Al Gore, the IPCC received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for its work “to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."
Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, an economist and environmental scientist with two doctorates, has been serving as the chief of the IPCC since 2002. He is also the director general of the Energy and Resources Institute in India, which is an organization that researches and promotes sustainable development.
Dr. Pachauri is a strict vegetarian due to his Hindu beliefs and also because of the impacts of a meat diet on the environment.
Traveling most of the year around the globe to bring awareness about climate change, he urges government leaders as well as the public to adopt more sustainable lifestyles such as stopping meat consumption, riding bicycles, and being a frugal consumer.
Supreme Master Television’s reporter at the Wellington press conference addressed this topic for Dr. Pachauri’s further explanation.
SUPREME MASTER TV Reporter: Can you explain to our global viewers how eating less meat will help to curb global warming?
Dr Rajendra Pachauri (Chairman of UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change): Well, if you look at the entire commercialized meat cycle, let’s start with the killing of the animal itself. It has to be preserved in a cool environment, and today this is a global business.
We not only need refrigeration at the source, we also need refrigeration at transportation, and then all the meat is stored in warehouses and then it goes to retail outlets and in the retail outlets, it’s kept again in refrigeration.
People buy meat, they buy a whole lot of it, take it home, and refrigerate it in larger and larger freezers, now why? Because you need to preserve meat, and I am not even talking about clearing forest for pasture land!
So if you want to take into account the entire chain, the entire cycle of meat production and consumption, it’s hugely intensive in terms of carbon dioxide emissions.
And therefore I always say if you eat less meat, you will be healthier and so will the planet! We consume far too much meat in this world! And with an increase in income, you find societies which were essentially on a vegetarian diet or any low-meat diet are now moving into a greater consumption of animal protein.
So clearly it makes sense because it’s a win-win situation if you eat less meat it’s the compelling argument behind this plea which I’ve made everywhere, that I’ve done over the years, and I’ve done it even in countries where they eat nothing but meat and fortunately, I survived!
HOST: You are watching Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. Dr. Rajendra Pachauri took time out after the press conference at World Environment Day 2008 in Wellington, New Zealand to speak with our Supreme Master Television correspondent and share his views on vegetarianism and climate change.
SUPREME MASTER TV Reporter: As the chairman of the IPCC, is there any advice that you would like to give to leaders and governments around the world regarding the huge amount of carbon emissions produced by the animal agriculture industry and what action we should be taking in regarding this?
Dr Rajendra Pachauri (Chairman of UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change): I think it would help the global community enormously, if we consume less meat.
But I am only highlighting the fact that the entire meat cycle is very very intensive, in terms of carbon dioxide emissions.
Right from the moment you cleared forests as pasture land, you have cattle grazing over there then cattle are killed and then refrigerated, so if you look at the carbon dioxide emissions, associated with the entire cycle its pretty large.
If you look at some of the estimates, that really seems staggering.
But more than anything else I think it’s a win-win solution to eat less meat. There is enough medical evidence, that the levels of consumption of meat that we have in the world today on a per capita basis, particularly in societies where that’s a very large part of the diet, it’s something that’s even harmful for human health.
And therefore if you turn to eating less meat then as I said, individuals would be healthy and so would the planet!
SUPREME MASTER TV Reporter: We hear a lot about governments reducing or pledging to reduce their carbon emissions through all the different sectors: transport, electricity production, etc., but we are not hearing a great deal about the animal-agriculture sector, and if we are, it seems to be a focus in four or five years time, which according to many scientists will be too late.
Is there any advice we should be giving to our leaders and to our governments in order to be taking more urgent actions with regards to this?
Dr. Rajendra Pachauri (Chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change): I think we really need to start thinking out of the box, that we shouldn’t take anything for granted. We shouldn’t assume that the established pattern of consumption and production is beyond the pale of action or options that people should be exercising, and if you’re starting to look at the meat cycle, and you know much of this is so dispersed, so specifically located in different parts of the world that it escapes the attention.
But it’s for analysts, it’s for those who are in the business of democracy to bring out the facts, and I think if they are brought out and the public understands them, then certainly world leaders and those who share public opinions also would be able to bring about a clear exposure of what’s involved in large quantities of consumption of meat.
So my advice would be that we should bring the facts out.
And once people are aware of the facts, then certainly the public at large and therefore the leadership of certain societies will see the merits in moving to a lower meat-oriented diet.
Unfortunately these things have really not been brought out adequately for people to take a view and to adopt positions by which they will reduce their dependence on meat.
HOST: With the continued rapid melting of the Arctic ice and the release of large amounts of methane gas stored in the permafrost, the urgency of taking action to stop global warming is clearer than ever.
SUPREME MASTER TV Reporter: You said that if we don’t act before 2012 that it will be too late. And that we need to take action within the next two or three years, so is this something we should be urging our governments to be stressing to populations and the other leaders that we really need to take action now?
Dr Rajendra Pachauri (Chairman of UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change): Absolutely, I mean if you look at the fourth assessment report of IPCC, we’ve assessed several stabilization scenarios, and one of them I would like to highlight is that particular one, which would ensure that climate change does not lead to warming more than 2 ~ 2.4 degrees Celsius.
Now with that particular scenario, we would have to ensure that we start reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by the year of 2015 at the latest.
This really gives us very little time, and therefore highlights the urgency of taking action as quickly as possible.
May I also point out that even with this scenario there is a grim outcome that the world would have to face in terms of sea level rise due to thermal expansion.
And our estimate of increasing sea (levels) is 0.4 to 1.4 meters due to thermal expansion alone, and if you add to this the amount of water that would be released and would add to sea level rise on the account of melting of the ice bodies, then we’ve already committed the world to a threat, which is going to affect a large number of small island states, low-lying coastal areas across the world.
That clearly gives us an absolute warning that we have no time to lose at all and we have to ensure that we start reducing emissions of greenhouse gases as quickly as possible, certainly by 2015 if we want to stabilize the temperature increase to 2 ~ 2.4 degrees Celsius and not allow sea level rise due to thermal expansion alone to go above the range that I have just mentioned.
And there are a lot of other reasons why there is an urgency in taking action. If you look at the impacts of climate change on water, on human health, on agriculture, on ecosystems, we really are getting into a zone where these impacts are going to become very serious even with a 1 to 1.5 degree increase in temperature.
So we really don’t have a moment to lose and I think if the world wants to stabilize the Earth’s climate and therefore minimize or eliminate the threat of harmful impacts, then we have to move very quickly.
SUPREME MASTER TV Reporter: Many individuals don’t realized the very important and effective steps that they can take as individuals, in order to curb global warming and climate change, the huge impact of eating less meat or not eating meat.
So if there are two or three simple steps that every person could take to reduce their carbon footprint, can you advise us what they would be?
Dr Rajendra Pachauri (Chairman of UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change): There is a whole range of things that individuals can do. We certainly need to change our use of transport modes.
For instance, we don’t think twice before we get into a car and just drive off anywhere we wish to, we don’t check whether public transport might be available for going to a particular location, and if it’s available then I think it’s far better to use public transport, where we can walk, it’s much better to walk, where we can use a bicycle, we should do that.
So I think in the transport sector and the use of transport modes we can certainly bring about choices that are much less intensive in carbon dioxide emissions.
Similarly in the use of lighting and in the use of air conditioning, if we were to use technologies that are very energy efficient, we can make a substantial difference to our carbon footprints, and finally, in our dietary method.
I think in our dietary techniques if we were to ensure that whatever we eat is associated with much lower levels of carbon-dioxide emissions, but doesn’t in any way reduce the nourishment that we get, I think we should shift in that direction.
However, I think it’s important to have a government policy also to influence individual choices, and this would happen particularly if we place a price on carbon, because when that happens, then the price of everything that’s associated with carbon dioxide emissions would change significantly, and consumer choices would then be exercised in keeping with that change in prices.
SUPREME MASTER TV Reporter: Dr. Pachuari, our global viewers will be very inspired by your words. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom today.
Dr Rajendra Pachauri (Chair of UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change): Thank you very much! I would like to say this to Supreme Master Television: Best wishes for your endeavors towards a sustainable world, thank you!
I would say, Go Veg, Be Green and Save Our Planet!
HOST: We thank you, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, for your tireless work to raise awareness about climate change and your encouragement of the vegetarian diet to solve global warming.