ProVeg International calls for sustainable food systems to be at centre of UNEA talks
23 February 2022
More than 140 NGOs urge UNEA to strongly encourage governments to shift towards plant-rich diets
Food awareness organisation ProVeg International is calling for sustainable and healthy food systems to be placed at the centre of talks at the forthcoming United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi, Kenya, with a key focus on the impact of animal agriculture.
In a letter written by ProVeg and signed by more than 140 other NGOs, UNEA President Espen Barth Eide and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Inger Andersen are called upon to strongly encourage governments to make the shift towards plant-rich diets in order to curb environmental destruction and minimise the likelihood of the next pandemic.
A total of 193 UN member states will meet at the resumed fifth session of UNEA, which runs from 28 February to 2 March, in order to share best practices for sustainability and to encourage governments to embrace a sustainable approach to recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic.
Food systems are not scheduled to play a central role in this round of talks, in contrast to three years ago at the fourth session (UNEA 4) when sustainable food systems were specifically addressed.
Nonetheless, Raphael Podselver, Head of UN Advocacy at ProVeg, praises the organisation’s leadership in the letter, pointing out that UNEP has made great strides in raising awareness about the role of diet as one of the key solutions to the climate emergency:
“The UN Environment Programme, especially under your leadership and with the focus on nature-based solutions, has been leading the way in making the connection between food systems and the global environmental challenges we are currently facing,” writes Podselver.
UNEP’s Making Peace with Nature report, published in February 2021, stated that changing the dietary habits of consumers in developed countries in order to reduce the demand for animal-based products would improve human health and reduce the pressure on land, water, biodiversity, and the climate system.
A shift to plant-centred diets could reduce land use for food by up to 76% – or about 3 billion hectares, an area the size of Africa. “At the same time”, writes Podselver, “experts agree that the increasing demand for animal-sourced proteins is a key driver in the emergence of zoonotic diseases and antibiotic resistance, both of which could be mitigated by reducing the world’s reliance on animal agriculture.”
ProVeg is urging UNEP to take two key actions to accelerate the shift towards more sustainable and less resourced-intensive food systems:
- Acknowledge the link between factory farms, environmental destruction, and the increased risk of zoonotic outbreaks. UNEP could establish an action plan to enable an end to industrial animal agriculture in regions with an excessive dependency on animal-based protein and hasten the shift towards plant-sourced proteins.
- Persuade governments, especially in the Global North, to take food systems and the dietary shift towards plant-based proteins into account when updating their National Determined Contributions (NDCs) and climate-mitigation strategies at the UNFCCC in the coming years.
With a noticeable increase in the public demand for alternative proteins, we are now seeing the emergence of a paradigm shift in our food systems. “This is the moment for accelerating this shift – for the sake of both human and planetary health,” states Podselver.
COP27 in November
The letter also urges UNEP to organise dedicated roundtables and events, including a ‘Food Day’, at COP27, the UN climate change conference, which will take place this year in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from 7-18 November.
The letter stresses that at COP26, held last November in Glasgow, UK, nearly 200 countries pledged to stop deforestation and reduce methane emissions by 2030. Industrial animal agriculture, particularly the production of animal feed and beef, is one of the leading causes of deforestation and is responsible for almost a third of global methane emissions. While the FAO estimates that livestock contributes about 14,5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, a more recent study showed that this could be closer to 20% of total emissions.
Notes to Editors
Contacts for this article:
Raphael Podselver, ProVeg International’s UN Head of UN advocacy.
Email: [email protected]
For general press enquiries, email: [email protected]
ProVeg International is a food awareness organisation working to transform the global food system by replacing animal-based products with plant-based and cultured alternatives.
ProVeg works with decision-making bodies, companies, investors, the media, and the general public to help the world transition to a society and economy that are less reliant on animal agriculture and more sustainable for all humans, animals, and the planet.
ProVeg has offices in nine countries across four continents and is active around the world. ProVeg has permanent observer status with the UNFCCC, special consultative status with ECOSOC, is accredited for UNEA, and has received the United Nations’ Momentum for Change Award.