COP28 has kicked off in Dubai, with global leaders gathering to speak enthusiastically about what they are doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an attempt to limit global warming.
Unfortunately, after 27 similar summits, the delivery hasn’t quite matched the ambition.
The great difficulty is that to achieve a meaningful reduction in emissions requires a change in lifestyle that isn’t palatable in developed - or to be more accurate, rich - countries.
That is partly why agriculture - livestock farming in particular - is such an easy target for token gestures.
Campaigning against livestock farming and changing diet gives an impression of serious actions to reduce emissions.
When it is done in countries such as Ireland or New Zealand where there is no mining or heavy industry but lots of grass, then there is the added impression of farming being the major national cause of emissions.
Livestock an easy target
The reality that livestock farming is the natural agricultural activity in Ireland and New Zealand is either deliberately or accidentally misunderstood.
It is also overlooked that these two countries in particular have the lowest emissions per kilo of output of beef, sheepmeat or dairy.
It all means that the easy narrative is that the developed world needs to reduce consumption of livestock-based proteins
The global meat industry is in attendance to present the case, but even that attempt to explain the role of livestock in global agriculture irritates many.
It all means that the easy narrative is that the developed world needs to reduce consumption of livestock-based proteins and therefore reduce demand.
Of course, consumption in what is considered the developed world is, at most, stable, certainly not increasing in any significant way and, in some cases, per-capita consumption is in decline.
However, this is more than offset by the increase in demand from the developing world, where consumption of livestock-based proteins are forecast to increase significantly in the coming decade, as they have been over recent years.
This is because these countries are now only becoming able to afford more expensive foods and current increase in global demand is being driven by Asian countries with growth in the African continent still to commence in a significant way.
It is difficult for western governments to tell developing countries that you cannot enjoy the diet we have had for decades.
Disproportionate share for Irish and New Zealand agriculture
The other problem is that outside of Ireland and New Zealand, livestock is a relatively small contributor to emissions. Transport and heat are a much greater source of emissions overall through their dependence on fossil fuel and while technology and green energy are being promoted and adopted, nobody is seriously considering restricting the use of cars and airplanes.
Putting a cap on the number of cows in Ireland is a much more palatable option than capping the number of passengers through Dublin Airport!
Meaningfully tackling emissions requires the adoption of a much more frugal lifestyle than society is willing to embrace
The bottom line is that meaningfully tackling emissions requires the adoption of a much more frugal lifestyle than society is willing to embrace.
We are addicted to consumer expenditure, the extent of which will be evident to any of us that visits a recycling centre when they reopen after the Christmas holiday.
We can stop livestock production entirely in Ireland and it will not solve the global problem - in fact, it will make it worse, as any drop in supply from Ireland will be met by other countries often with higher emissions per kilo of output.
There will be plenty of fine words at COP28 in Dubai, but it is doubtful if the tough changes that would make a difference will be adopted.