COP28, the United Nations’ climate conference, starts today in Dubai and will continue until December 12. And while work is being done by climate and food activists at the event to bring the urgency of addressing food system change into focus, the meat and dairy industry is in town sharpening tools in preparation for what could be effectively the biggest greenwashing operation the world has ever seen.
It may come as no surprise that the event, attended by world leaders and multi-billionaires, with the UK Prime Minister, King Charles, and Foreign Secretary David Cameron all arriving in separate jets, serves as a platform for those in power and that their strategy would be galvanised this year in order to oppose those petitioning against the consumption of meat.
Big Meat prepares to “tell its story and tell it well”
As revealed today by The Guardian and DeSmog, major meat companies and lobby groups will be present in a show of force and will be armed with a “communications plan to get a pro-meat message heard by policymakers throughout the summit”, according to documents produced by the Global Meat Alliance (GMA), describing the meat lobby’s desire to push “our scientific evidence” in terms of the effect of animal agriculture on the planet and climate. The documents reveal the meat industry’s plans to “tell its story and tell it well” at the event.
On the other side, various groups representing plant-based food will be present with the aim of ensuring delegates eat within a daily food budget in line with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. For the second time, this year’s conference will also feature pavilions related to food system change.
Some of the plant-based initiatives taking place in Dubai from today are as follows.
PXB Lifestyle is a plant-based culinary concept in Dubai, founded by entrepreneur Loui Blake. Featuring a ground-floor cafe and a top-floor restaurant, it aims to go beyond traditional dining by educating consumers about the benefits of a plant-based diet.
In COP28’s Blue Zone, PXB Lifestyle is operating a plant-based food truck in partnership with other restaurants such as Roots & Rolls, Prunch, and Wilder Than Moon. PXB is also hosting popups in the Green Zone featuring the dining concepts Chuck Chick, Floozie, and Lena Lu; these are open to the public. Additionally, PXB has organized plant-based cooking classes in the Expo City Farm, led by industry-renowned chefs.
“As the founder of Roots & Rolls, I’m genuinely proud to join PXB in a partnership ensuring a 1.5-degree aligned menu for attendants at COP28 whilst also sending a strong signal and inspiration worldwide with the need for rapid change in our global food system,” said Sandra de Jong, founder of Roots & Rolls.
Planetarians is a San Francisco-based climate tech company making plant-based meats from industrial and commercial side streams. The company will be showcasing its meat alternatives at COP28, with co-founder and CEO Aleh Manchuliantsau set to participate in the fireside chat “Transforming Waste into Treasure” during the Climate Innovation Forum. Planetarians will also have a booth in the Tech and Innovation Hub in the conference’s second week.
“We appreciate COP28 organizers for putting a stronger focus on food and agriculture systems as a contributor to global climate change, and for inviting us to participate in the dialogue at a meaningful level,” said Manchuliantsau. “With one-sixth of greenhouse gas emissions a result of food production, and food waste a key contributor, it’s imperative to look at agriculture as a closed-loop system.”
AIM for Climate
The Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate) is a UAE-US government co-led initiative aiming to boost collaboration between government, private, and nonprofit organizations, with the aim of increasing self-financed investments in climate-smart agriculture and food system innovation.
Spain is one of AIM for Climate’s government partners, and new Spanish agricultural innovators who have joined the initiative are set to be announced at COP28. Among them is a $350.4 million project that involves creating 4 million acres of regenerative agriculture by 2025, investing in fermentation technology for plant-based products, and investing in feedstock for renewable diesel.
Switch Foods is a UAE-based meat alternatives producer that opened what was claimed to be Abu Dhabi’s first plant-based meat production facility earlier this year. The company will operate several food trucks at COP28, offering dishes such as burgers, kafta wraps, and kabab sandwiches.
“Switch Foods is a UAE-based company, and our products are designed to cater to local tastes and health preferences without compromising on flavor,” said Edward Hamod, founder and CEO of Switch Foods. “At COP28, our food truck promises delegates and attendees a unique experience of sustainable, health-conscious, and locally sourced foods. Our presence here represents our unwavering dedication to sustainability as we continue to lead in reshaping food choices for a better future.”
We wish luck to any and all of those working to protect the climate, the planet, and its animals, in the face of those in power. As Nusa Urbancic, CEO of campaign group the Changing Markets Foundation, told the Guardian: “Any credible action to reduce emissions in the food sector will inevitably lead to a reduction in the total volume of meat and dairy products produced […] The industry is terrified of that and has been deploying multiple tactics to delay the inevitable.”