Report: Canadians should adopt
a plant-based diet for “1.5-Degree Lifestyle”

By Agnes Urlocker

A version of this blog appeared in the National Post in September of 2023.

The crucial net-zero emissions target

2024 is the third year under Canada’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan, a stepping stone toward the goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. “Net-zero by 2050” plans have been drafted by countries that have signed the United Nations Paris Agreement, in the pursuit of avoiding rises in global temperature above 1.5C. 

The World Meteorological Organization recently highlighted the need for strategies to support these emissions reduction goals, suggesting that global temperatures may breach 1.5C warming for the first time by 2027. Sadly, that marker was exceeded even earlier; over the period of February 2023 through January 2024, the world averaged 1.52 degrees above the pre-industrial mean. Temperatures in February 2024 were even higher, averaging 1.77 degrees above that mean.

This blog post from Earthsave Canada explains both the meaning of “net-zero” emissions and the necessary Canadian policy changes that will pave the way to meet that goal, including a shift away from animal agriculture. 

How is Canada measuring up?

A 2021 report by the Berlin Hot or Cool Institute entitled 1.5-Degree Lifestyles investigated GHG emission and lifestyle patterns in ten countries (Canada, Finland, United Kingdom, Japan, China, South Africa, Turkey, Brazil, India, and Indonesia) to identify what life might look like in 2030 in different geographical locations to avoid warming over 1.5C by 2050. 

The researchers examined consumption patterns in six categories (food, housing, personal transport, goods, leisure, and services) and their emissions impact. Groups within consumption categories with the largest emissions impacts were named “emissions hotspots”. The researchers identified lifestyle behaviours for individuals in each country to address emissions hotspots by evaluating hotspot item necessity, feasibility of alternative item consumption, and the emissions impact of consuming alternative items. The lifestyle behaviours that researchers deemed most effective for emissions reduction are ways individuals can live within a “fair consumption space,” an individual-specific consumption pattern that equitably meets needs without overconsuming. 

Among the ten countries, Canada’s emissions surpassed all other countries in every category. Within Canada’s food category, meat was concluded to be an emissions hotspot, responsible for 1.39 tonnes of carbon emissions per capita. The researchers concluded that adopting a vegan diet is the second most impactful emission-reducing lifestyle strategy for Canadians, behind car-free private traveling.

A call to action for Canadians

Researchers have repeatedly emphasized that global GHG emissions and associated rising temperatures are driving us to an increasingly inhospitable world. Canada’s oversized contribution to global emissions compared to other countries, as confirmed by 1.5-Degree Lifestyles, is a call to action for Canadians to evaluate their choices. We will all need to make changes if humanity is to adapt to living consistently within our low emissions targets. 

The good news is that plant-based eating is a promising route to make individual positive change, and it is easier now than ever! Explore our website for information on the impact you can make and the steps you can take to increase the plant power of your life.

About Agnes Urlocker 

Agnes completed her B.Sc.H in Biology at Queen’s University in 2023 and now dedicates herself to inspiring others on their learning journeys as a music lessons associate and academic advisor. Agnes is grateful to explore and spread education on plant-based eating. In her free time, she enjoys running and playing her guitar.