The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or commonly referred to as the 27th Conference of Parties (COP 27) of the United Nations took place last November 6 to 18 in Egypt. Methane as a greenhouse (GHG) was given more attention. For the longest time, GHG reduction efforts are concentrated on Carbon Dioxide.

Methane is also a powerful GHG. Over a 20-year period, it is 80 times more potent at warming than carbon dioxide, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Agriculture is the predominant source. Methane has accounted for roughly 30 per cent of global warming since pre-industrial times and is proliferating faster than at any other time since record keeping began in the 1980s.

The World Meteorological Organization said last month that last year's jump in methane concentrations was the highest since records began in 1983 and came on the heels of another record-breaking year in 2020. As such, in the COP 26 in Scotland last year, more than one hundred countries committed to reduce emissions of methane.

One of the biggest sources of methane in the agriculture sector is livestock emissions from manure and gastroenteric releases (burps and farts). Thus one of the ways to reduce methane emission is to reduce meat consumption. Lifestyle changes don’t come easy. But there’s something that can make people stop or reduce meat consumption - religious beliefs. Because of their faith, people can impose this action upon themselves voluntarily.

In 2011, Catholic bishops in England and Wales called on their parishioners to reduce the amount of meat eaten on Fridays. Around 28% of Catholics complied, adjusting their dietary habits in various ways. Some gave up meat altogether on Fridays, while others reduced it. Research said that this actually helped the planet.

A study from the University of Cambridge, titled "Food for the Soul and the Planet: Measuring the Impact of the Return of Meatless Fridays for (Some) UK Catholics," assessed the impact of this shift. They estimated that over the past 10 years, more than 55,000 tonnes of annual carbon emissions were saved. That’s equivalent to 82,000 fewer people taking return flights from London to New York City every year.

Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays of the Lenten season as a form of penance and a way to remember and honor Jesus Christ's death. Up until 1966 Church law prohibited meat on all Fridays throughout the entire year.

Imagine the impact to the planet if Catholics all over the world would reduce meat consumption on Fridays. It could be a major source of low-cost emissions reductions, even if only a minority of Catholics will comply. The move would also support Pope Francis's call for "radical" responses to climate change. It will make Lenten fasting and abstinence more meaningful. It is a sacrifice for humanity.