The Chinese government has outlined a plan to reduce its citizens’ meat consumption by 50%, in a move that climate campaigners hope will provide major heft in the effort to avoid runaway global warming.
New dietary guidelines drawn up by China’s health ministry recommend that the nation’s 1.3 billion population should consume between 40g to 75g of meat per person each day. The measures, released once every 10 years, are designed to improve public health but could also provide a significant cut to greenhouse gas emissions.
The announcement is notable given the size of China’s population, representing over 18% of the world’s 7.3 billion people. If the guidelines are heeded, they may serve as a real-world example of the “contract and converge" principle. The idea is that high-income countries could reduce their consumption – in this case, of beef, pork and other meat – while low- and middle-income countries increase their consumption of meat. This tends to happen in most societies as incomes rise and standards of living improve. The levels of consumption across countries with different income levels would ideally converge at a common ceiling.
Health advocates have suggested that such a strategy could mirror how nations might work to address greenhouse gas emissions in general.
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