UAE climate minister makes it official – COP28 will serve two thirds plant-based food
15 November 2023
UAE’s climate minister confirms COP28 catering ambitions and calls upon caterers to step up to the plate
The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE’s) Minister of Climate Change and Environment and Food System Lead at COP28 has confirmed that catering at this year’s UN climate summit will be two thirds plant-based – marking a first for any COP summit.
Her Excellency Mariam Almheiri, in a press release published on news site Zawya, revealed the “core commitment to deliver two thirds plant-based menu” as well as ensuring a focus on nutrition, portion sizes, affordability and minimising waste.
The minister described the move as a first for COP, providing delegates with a “360-degree understanding of the climate challenges the world faces”. Animal agriculture is responsible for around 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions1 and the UN’s IPCC reports how a shift to more plant-based diets can bring these emissions down.
“We are delighted that the Minister has confirmed the catering ambitions and trust caterers will rise to the challenge to produce tasty, affordable and climate-friendly meals at this year’s summit,” Lana Weidgenant, ProVeg campaigns and policy officer, said.
“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,” Weidgenant added.
The decision to serve mostly plant-based food follows months of collaboration between YOUNGO, the Youth and Children constituency of the UNFCCC, and Food@COP, a campaign within YOUNGO dedicated to ensuring COP events have climate-friendly catering. Supported by food awareness organisation, ProVeg International, the groups have sought to implement Food@COP’s vision that major climate conferences serve food that recognizes planetary boundaries and are in line with the Paris Agreement.
Dubbed the “1.5°C aligned menu”, the COP28 Presidency hopes to set a precedent for future summits and events all over the world by demonstrating that climate conscious catering can be served up, even at a huge event like COP.
YOUNGO sent a letter earlier this year, and Food@COP made earlier requests for climate-friendly catering at COP26 and COP27. Besides the high percentage of plant-based foods, the implementation for sustainable catering at COP28 will also focus on 1.5°C alignment, inclusivity, waste, packaging, emissions labelling, and carbon budgets.
Speaking to the significance of this effort, Food@COP and YOUNGO Food and Agriculture Working Group member Gloria Agyare said, “In this moment, hearing young voices and seeing their ideas come to life fills me with immense joy. As a young advocate from the Global South, it gives me great hope that youth are playing a vital role in shaping our future. I can’t wait to taste the food, knowing it’s a delicious symbol of our dedication to a climate-friendly tomorrow.”
Members of the Climate-Friendly Catering Letter Steering Committee, who have led this engagement with the COP28 Presidency, include: Alexis Balimann (Switzerland), Aya Mounir (Morocco), Caroline Wimberly (United States), Falk Hemsing (Germany), Gloria Agyare (Ghana), Joseph Niyomukiza (Rwanda), Lana Weidgenant (United States/Brazil), and Sharon Gakii (Kenya).
Eating within budget
An estimated 250,000 meals will be served to more than 60,000 visitors every day across nearly 80 outlets including food halls, grab and go stations, and food trucks across the site.
The COP 1.5°C aligned menu is designed to enable delegates to eat within a daily food budget calculated to curb global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius – the limit agreed under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Food Systems at COP28
This year’s COP will have a strong focus on food with the first ever Food, Agriculture and Water Day and the publication of a “Roadmap to 1.5C” by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The COP28 Presidency is also calling on governments to sign a Leaders Declaration on Food Systems, Agriculture and Climate Action and integrate food systems and agriculture into national climate agendas.
ProVeg International and partners will be on the ground at COP28 with a Food4Climate Pavilion. There will be several other pavilions dedicated to food and agricultural issues where YOUNGO and Food@COP will be active, including the Food Systems Partnership and Children and Youth Pavilion.
Notes to Editors
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 International is a food awareness organisation with the mission to replace 50% of animal products globally with plant-based and cultivated foods by 2040. Our vision is a world where everyone chooses delicious and healthy food that is good for all humans, animals, and our planet.