The world’s preeminent climate policy event will be serving hundreds of thousands of veg meals to attendees this year – with a food-focused agenda to match.
Two-thirds of the food menu at this year’s UN Climate Summit, COP28, is set to be plant-based!
COP28 hosts, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have confirmed their commitment to deliver a mostly vegan, ‘1.5°C aligned menu’ to attendees of the upcoming talks in Dubai this year, saying they hope the move will encourage people to adopt more environmentally friendly eating habits.
Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, the UAE’s COP28 President-Designate, said:
“The COP28 Presidency has a firm focus on transformational action on food systems within the wider global climate change agenda. As part of this, we intend to demonstrate sustainable food systems in action at COP28 itself.”
As many as 250,000 meals are expected to be served on each day of the two-week conference, across food halls, grab-and-go stations, and food trucks – and two-thirds of these meals will be vegan.
According to Marian Almheiri, the UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment and food system leader for COP28, the commitment to deliver a two-thirds plant-based menu marks a first for the UN’s annual climate policy event.
“We know that our food systems are intrinsically linked to the fate of our natural world, and so we have made the progressive decision to ensure that we explore how the catering provided across the event can be responsible and climate conscious.”
Climate-friendly catering announced after impassioned calls from global youth
This concrete announcement comes after months of campaigning by the Youth and Children Constituency of the UNFCCC (YOUNGO), as well as over 140 youth and civil society groups, led to Dr. Jaber agreeing to provide a plant-forward menu for the conference.
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By committing to plant-rich, affordable catering, the COP28 Presidency is showing leadership and acknowledging the impact of diets high in animal-sourced foods. It is really fantastic to see this happening.
ProVeg campaigns and policy officer Lana Weidgenant
COP28 to shine a light on the environmental impact of animal agriculture
The detrimental impact of meat and dairy has been increasingly under the spotlight recently, and an investigation into the UN FAO’s apparent censoring of the link between animal agriculture and climate change due to lobbying pressure has amplified the scrutiny.
Myriad scientific studies have shown that an urgent shift towards plant-based food is needed in order to deliver on global climate goals.
In fact, a new study has even found that switching to plant-based eating can help reduce diet-related emissions, water pollution, and land use by 75%, drastically reducing the environmental damage caused by food production.
Raphaël Podselver, director of UN Affairs at ProVeg International, says that making the COP28 menu mostly plant-based is “excellent progress”, but adds that there’s still more work to do when it comes to raising awareness among UN nations about the food system’s impact on the planet.
“We believe the climate data is helping to push things forward; in particular, the latest report from the IPCC about the need to embrace plant-based diets to tackle climate change.”
Increased food focus & mostly veg menu sets a powerful new precedent
With its mostly vegan menu and increased focus on food systems compared to previous years, the upcoming COP28 event is being described as the first food-centric UN Climate Summit ever.
Almheiri says she hopes the Sustainable Catering Strategy – which is also focused on nutrition, inclusivity, affordability, emissions labelling, and minimising waste – sets a powerful precedent for future summits.
Podselver echoes this hope:
“We certainly do not see this as a one-off, but rather another stage in a journey towards raising awareness of how to make our diets more climate-friendly.”
Podselver says it’s “the first time we are having real discussions on food and agriculture at a COP summit”, adding that he expects to see policy shifts related to advancing protein diversification and plant-rich diets, improving food security, and reducing agrifood emissions.
The COP28 Presidency is even calling on governments to sign a declaration to incorporate agriculture and food systems into their national climate agendas – which could go a long way in terms of shifting countries around the world towards more environmentally friendly, plant-based eating patterns.
Keen to learn more about how going veg can help in the race to secure a sustainable future for our planet? Get the facts here!