Plant-based dishes will form the majority of the menus at Dubai’s upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28.
COP28 will be held from November 30 until December 12 as world leaders come together in the UAE to discuss how to tackle the climate crisis.
The meat and dairy industries have a significant impact on the planet, with animal agriculture estimated to be responsible for at least 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Meat and dairy are also driving deforestation, biodiversity loss, and species extinction.
And past conferences have been criticised for ignoring the impact of livestock farming on the environment and serving up meals including a $100 beef medallion dish, a $50 seafood platter, and a $40 salmon at last year’s Egyptian event.
‘We are delighted that the COP Presidency is potentially going to prioritise plant-based food at the world’s most significant climate summit this year,’ Lana Weidgenant, youth activist and campaigns and policy officer at advocacy group ProVeg International, said.
‘It will send a clear – and tasty – message out to delegates from nearly 200 countries of the importance of adopting more plant-based diets for tackling climate change.’
The move by COP28 organisers comes following a letter from youth activists demanding at least three-quarters of this year’s menu be vegan.
Sent in April, the letter was co-signed by the Youth and Children Constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC YOUNGO) and over 140 youth and civil society organisations, who teamed up with ProVeg.
It stated: ‘Progress on climate-friendly catering has already been made at previous COPs and major climate events in Bonn, Glasgow, and Stockholm. Yet, despite persistent demands from attendees, especially youth, the food on offer at these events has been out of step with the climate emergency.’
Adding: ‘The UAE has a unique opportunity to set another milestone and become the first presidency to make catering at COP truly sustainable and predominantly plant-based.’
In response, UAE’s COP28 President-Designate, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, confirmed the conference’s decision to promote vegan dishes.
He 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. 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.’
COP28’s decision has been welcomed by environmental activists and vegan advocacy groups. It is also in line with consumer sentiment in the UAE , with 44 per cent of residents saying they are open to substituting meat and dairy with vegan alternatives.
A new study in Nature Food recently outlined the significant impact that animal agriculture has on climate change. The research showed that vegan diets resulted in 75 per cent less planet-heating emissions, water pollution and land use than carnivore diets. Vegan diets also cut the destruction of wildlife by 66 per cent and water use by 54 per cent, the study found.
Prof Peter Scarborough at Oxford University, who led the research said: ‘Our dietary choices have a big impact on the planet. Cutting down the amount of meat and dairy in your diet can make a big difference to your dietary footprint.’