Photo: Ivan Walsh / Flickr
China’s new dietary guidelines recommend a substantial cutback in meat consumption, which, according to an anticipated WildAid report, could lead to a 1.5 percent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions.
Animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, roughly equivalent to emissions from the global transportation sector. Today, China is home to nearly 1.4 billion people, more than 18 percent of the global population, which means small changes in per capita food consumption have substantial impacts on global food supplies and associated greenhouse gas emissions.
Population size poses big challenges, but China’s got another big problem it’s trying to tackle with the new dietary guidelines – that is, the size of the people themselves. The Chinese Ministry of Health hopes that the guidelines will reduce growing obesity rates in the country. China’s obese population is estimated at roughly 300 million people and incurs billions of dollars in healthcare-related costs every year.
What’s driving China’s growth? Historically, Chinese people ate very few snacks, but in recent years, diets have been changing. As more people move to cities and affluence increases, the Chinese are eating more fast food, fried foods and meat products. As of 2011, between 65.6 percent and 74.8 percent of Chinese residents living in megacities were self-proclaimed snackers, with youth in those regions between the age of two and 18 getting an average of 17.5 percent of their daily calories from snack foods.
Experts claim that predominantly plant-based diets are better for human health and our planet. Unlike the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which were allegedly manipulated by meat and dairy lobbyists to exclude health and sustainability recommendations last year, it seems like the Peoples Republic of China has cooked up dietary recommendations that could slim its population and its greenhouse gas emissions.