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James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger Speak Out for Reduced Meat Consumption

Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron on set to film a new PSA for WildAid's 5 To Do Today campaign (Vern Evans)

Today, WildAid’s 5 To Do Today climate action campaign, in partnership with the Chinese Nutrition Society kicked off a new campaign focused on reducing meat consumption in China, which is currently expected to rise by 50% by 2030.

We're thrilled to announce that the campaign now has support from leading voices for climate solutions on both sides of the Pacific: Entertainment industry icons and climate activists James Cameron (director of Titanic and Avatar, among other blockbusters), former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (star of the Terminator films, also directed by Cameron) and China’s most famous actress, Li Bingbing, to create a comprehensive media campaign featuring TV PSAs and billboards geared to reduce meat consumption.

U.S.-based groups Climate Nexus and My Plate, My Planet will distribute English versions of the ads in the United States. Watch a behind-the-scenes clip of a PSA to be released later this summer!

Earlier this year, 5 To Do Today partnered with the Chinese Nutrition Society to promote its recommendations through a series of billboards starring a team of influential Chinese celebrities. The billboards were released in May 2016 and will be distributed through media outlets in every province and autonomous region of China.

Director and deep sea explorer James Cameron has been an outspoken leader in exposing animal agriculture's impact on the environment and climate through his activities with Food Choice Taskforce and support of the My Plate, My Planet initiative, a consortium of more than 200 environmental and health organizations, in support of linking food and sustainability in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

“China’s move to cut meat consumption in half would not only have a huge impact on public health, it is also a massive leadership step towards drastically reducing carbon emissions and reaching the goals set out in the Paris Agreement,” Cameron said. “Livestock emits more than all transportation combined. Reducing demand for animal-based foods is essential if we are to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius as agreed at COP21.”

Mr. Schwarzenegger added: “As much as we in California have been leaders and have inspired China to go in the right direction with environmental issues, they are now inspiring us.”

Chinese health officials are urging the nation’s 1.3 billion citizens to cut their meat consumption in half to prevent heart disease, diabetes and other diet-related illnesses. A recent 5 To Do Today survey indicated a public willingness to eat less meat. If followed, the recommendations would significantly cut global greenhouse gas emissions. [Click here to read the full report, Eating for Tomorrow: How China's Food Choices Can Help Mitigate Climate Change]

The Chinese Nutrition Society’s (CNS) new recommendations on halving meat consumption were highlighted Monday at a press conference in Beijing with state officials and representatives of 5 To Do Today, a Chinese campaign that is working to reduce emissions through individual behavior change. A 5 To Do Today report released at the press conference calculates the opportunity for emissions reductions through dietary change and includes promising survey results.

“Our national meat consumption is increasing every year. The increase is mainly from livestock such as pork and beef,” said Professor Yang Yuexin, President of Chinese Nutrition Society in an interview with 5 To Do Today. “Much evidence has shown that long-term overconsumption of meat, especially processed meat, will impose adverse effects on our body, affecting our health in the long run.”

As well as impacting health, meat affects emissions: Livestock agriculture and meat production account for an estimated 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Due to its population and rapid economic growth, China is essential to any efforts to curb GHG emissions. The nation consumes 28% of all the world’s meat, about half of the world’s pork, and is projected to add the equivalent of the total United States consumption to global demand for meat between 2010 and 2030.

New dietary recommendations from CNS urge citizens to reduce meat consumption from current levels of 63 kg per person per year to a maximum of 27.4 kg. Projections indicate that consumption could reach 93 kg per person by 2030 without intervention.

By 2050, consumption of meat and dairy products are expected to rise 76% and 65% respectively. According to Chatham House and the Proceedings from the National Academy of Sciences, the current level of meat consumption is not sustainable and has a tremendous impact on societal health and the environment. It is a hugely inefficient use of land and water and drives deforestation and the loss of biodiversity.

Building on a seminal, global study by Chatham House enabled by Cameron’s organizations, a 5 To Do Today survey from December 2015 indicates that Chinese consumers could be receptive to messaging about reduced meat consumption. Eighty-eight percent of respondents were aware that meat consumption was unhealthy, while forty percent were aware of the associated GHG emissions. Overall, 83% of respondents were willing to eat vegetarian at least one day each week for their health and the planet, with 62% willing to eat vegetarian two or more days each week.

“It is hoped that people will rely less on the livestock industry,” said Mr. Li Junfeng, Director General of China’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation. “Through this kind of lifestyle change, it is expected that the livestock industry will transform and carbon emissions will be reduced."

5 To Do Today calculates that if everyone in China were to adopt the recommended diet, greenhouse gas emissions from meat consumption in the country would fall by 675 MtCO2e, an amount equal to 1.5% of global emissions. Without intervention, emissions from meat consumption in China are expected to rise 51% by 2030 to reach 1.8 GtCO2e, an amount greater than the 2012 national emissions of every country except China, the United States, India and Russia.