COP28 President responds to global youth letter for climate-friendly food at UN Climate Conference
18 July 2023
A letter from the COP28 organisers to YOUNGO and Food@COP continues the constructive engagement with the host country about sustainable catering
This year’s UN climate summit, COP28, may finally serve a high percentage of climate-friendly, plant-based foods after years of advocacy efforts by different civil society groups for the event to have greener catering.
The Presidency of COP28 has written to youth activists saying they will ensure the availability of plant-based food options that are affordable, nutritious, and locally and regionally sourced, with clear emissions labelling. The summit will be held in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December.
The letter was addressed to YOUNGO, the Youth and Children Constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and was signed by Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) COP28 President-Designate.
The response letter follows outreach from the youth groups who, in their letter to the Presidency earlier this year, sent by YOUNGO and Food@COP with support from ProVeg International, called for at least three quarters of all food options on the menu to be plant-based. The letter also asked that all food options—especially plant-based items—be affordable, nutritious, regionally sourced (where feasible), and culturally inclusive and that a clear emissions label be displayed for all food options, as implemented at COP26.
“This is a huge achievement. We have never had a response like this before and every year youth and civil society push for climate-friendly catering at the climate conference,” said Lana Weidgenant, a youth activist and ProVeg campaigns and policy officer.
“By committing to plant-rich, regional, and affordable catering, the COP28 Presidency is showing leadership, it’s showing innovation and it is acknowledging the impact of meat consumption and animal agriculture. It is really fantastic to see this happening,” Weidgenant added.
Specifically, the letter states that 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. My team has been working to ensure the availability of plant-based food options that are affordable, nutritious and locally and regionally sourced, with clear emissions labelling,” Dr Sultan Al Jabar writes.
With food carrying clear emissions labelling, conference attendees will be able to determine the foods that produce the most greenhouse gases every time they order a meal.
“After meaningful efforts advocating for sustainable and climate friendly food at COP, we look forward to working together with the organising team to drive action on the ground. The change starts with us and by having the option to choose food with less impacts, we can all contribute to reducing global emissions,” said Aya Mounir, YOUNGO Food and Agriculture Working Group contact point.
“This also pushes us to keep advocating for change and influence decisions regarding food and agriculture, like the Sharm El Sheikh Joint work on implementation of climate action on agriculture and food security. We will, as young people, keep pushing for food systems transformation and a sustainable future for all,” Mounir added.
YOUNGO and Food@COP members have made efforts to engage COP presidencies on this topic since at least COP23 in 2017.
“It’s quite meaningful for the biggest climate conference to provide a catering menu that’s in line with the Paris Agreement, and reflects needed wide-scale shifts to plant-centric diets, even as the onus for reducing emissions from the food and agriculture sector, like fossil fuels, is on the highest consuming and producing countries and populations. For the most part, that’s down to livestock products, palm oil, and most seafood. I hope delegates from the nearly 200 countries attending this year’s summit, including those from the Global South like me, will take this message home and work to implement policies that encourage a shift to more equitable food systems that support biodiversity and diversified diets,” Food@COP contact point Gakii Sharon said.
Food systems at COP28
This year’s UN climate summit will also have a much stronger focus on food systems compared to previous years, with a dedicated Food, Agriculture and Water day as well as a Nature, Land Use, and Oceans day.
There will be several Pavilions dedicated to these important topics, such as the Food4Climate Pavilion led by ProVeg International and other partners, as well as the Food Systems Pavilion (hosted by Food Systems Partnership) and Producers Hub.
Notes to Editors
For media inquiries:
Contact Hemavathi S Shekhar at YOUNGO at [email protected]
Contact Lana Weidgenant at ProVeg International at [email protected]
YOUNGO is the official children and youth constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). YOUNGO is a vibrant, global network of children and youth activists (up to 35 years) as well as youth NGOs, who contribute to shaping the intergovernmental climate change policies and strive to empower youth to formally bring their voices to the UNFCCC processes.
The Food@COP campaign, a youth-led initiative under YOUNGO, is a coalition of youth groups, networks and civil society organisations with the conviction that international climate conferences must exemplify the vision of a sustainable future with the catering they serve at their events. Together, we are calling for the organisers of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) to serve affordable, nutritious, predominantly plant-based, and culturally inclusive foods that reflect the urgency of the climate crisis.
About ProVeg International
ProVeg is an international food awareness organisation working to transform the global food system by replacing conventional animal-based products with plant-based and cultivated alternatives.
ProVeg works with international decision-making bodies, governments, food producers, investors, the media, and the general public to help the world transition to a society and economy that are less dependent on animal agriculture and more sustainable for humans, animals, and the planet.
ProVeg has permanent-observer status with the UNFCCC, is accredited for UNEA, and has received the United Nations’ Momentum for Change Award. ProVeg also has Observer Status at the IPCC.