ProVeg sums up the progress made at COP28 on cutting emissions from the food system
December 15, 2023
We said it would be “the first Food COP” and it turned out to be just that!
COP28, the UN climate summit that closed its doors in Dubai this week, advanced the urgent need to transform our food system in eight distinct ways.
Below we list the eight developments that ensured that the global food system – responsible for a third of global greenhouse gas emissions – got more of the prominence it deserved in Dubai compared to all previous COPs.
1. The over 70,000 delegates in attendance this year were served largely climate-friendly meals. The COP28 Presidency’s decision to serve two-thirds plant-based food came about after ProVeg supported two other organisations – YOUNGO and Food@COP – to engage the organisers in ensuring most food at the summit was plant-based. ProVeg then teamed up with two catering firms to provide a pre-COP flavour of what would be served.
2. On the first full day of COP28, a Declaration on sustainable agriculture was signed by countries who pledged to reduce carbon emissions from the food system by including them in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and other national climate action plans. ProVeg welcomed the Declaration, which came after much hard work by many NGOs who raised the issue at previous COP summits.
3. Two days later saw the official launch of another Declaration highlighting the benefits to health gained from countries shifting to “healthy, sustainable diets”. ProVeg welcomed the breakthrough Declaration because it recognised that human health is being impacted by climate change as global temperatures continue to rise. But it also points out that healthy, sustainable diets play a key role in keeping people in good health.
4. Midway through COP28, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) held a press conference in Dubai to launch a report that recognises the importance of transforming the food system with novel protein alternatives. UNEP Chief Executive, Inger Andersen, spoke on the benefits of alternatives to animal products, acknowledging that “what and how we eat impacts human, animal and planetary health”. She also mentioned the damage to nature from conventional meat and dairy, such as deforestation from livestock and feed production.
5. The global dairy industry took the occasion of COP28 to issue a pledge to monitor its methane emissions, which ProVeg welcomed cautiously. While increased transparency and industry-led initiatives are important, the implementation of policies that help societies shift to more plant-based diets remains paramount.
6. The highly anticipated publication of the FAO Roadmap to 1.5C openly acknowledged the need for dietary transition. ProVeg expressed concerns about the Roadmap’s limitations but recognises that it also represents a step towards food system transformation.
7. The final Global Stocktake mentioned food systems in the adaptation section but ProVeg emphasises the importance of having food systems squarely in the mitigation section as well, as per the IPCC report highlighting the role of plant-based and cultivated foods to tackle the climate crisis.
8. Finally, the presence of our Food4Climate Pavilion throughout COP28 meant that delegates were able to attend talks, side events,or just enjoy a cup of coffee – with oat milk – at our Pavilion designed to promote plant-based and cultivated food as a way to reduce agricultural emissions. It was the second year of the Pavilion and we had no end of visitors!
“This year’s COP will be looked back upon as a turning point for our approach to tackling emissions from agriculture,” Lana Weidgenant, Campaign and Policy Manager at ProVeg, said.
“We are now looking to Azerbaijan, host of COP29, to build on this progress that has been made in Dubai to boldly accelerate progress towards a climate-friendly food system. In the meantime, we hope countries will be busy working out ways to include food systems in their NDCs if they have not already done so,” Weidgenant said.