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Plant-Based Food to Be Served at COP28 Following Outreach by Youth Activists

The presidency of the COP28 climate summit has written to youth activists from the groups YOUNGO (Youth Climate Movement) and Food@COP to confirm that plant-based foods will be available at the event.

It follows a letter sent by the groups with the help of ProVeg International, which called for at least three-quarters of the menu at COP28 to be plant-based. Additionally, the letter suggested that the food should be affordable, nutritious, culturally inclusive, sourced locally where possible, and feature clear emissions labeling.

“It is really fantastic to see this happening”

The response from the presidency confirms that the latter requests will be met, but there is currently no indication of what percentage of the food served will be plant-based. However, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber — the UAE COP28 President-Designate who signed the letter — confirmed that there would be plant-based options available and said “serious consideration” would be given to the proposals made by the activists.

“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.”

Food4Climate Pavilion
Food4Climate Pavilion, image courtesy ProVeg International

“Wide-scale shifts” needed

Despite the huge impact of the food system on climate change, the COP summits have been relatively slow to acknowledge this. Last year, COP27 hosted pavilions dedicated to food system change for the first time ever, in what was described as a “tectonic shift”. 160 NGOs called on the host country, Egypt, to serve plant-rich food at the event, while The International Plant Based Foods Working Group asked the world leaders in attendance to set clear, measurable targets for food system transition.

“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 is on the highest consuming and producing countries,” said Gakii Sharon of Food@COP. “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.”

COP28 will be held in Dubai from November 30 to December 12.

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