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A Call for Sustainable Food at COP28

In conjunction with over 140 youth and civil society organisations, the official youth constituency (YOUNGO) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) delivered a hard-hitting letter addressed to the the Presidency of the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) on the importance of promoting sustainable food practices at this year’s UN climate change conference in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Harnessing the power of a collective voice, the signatories urged the COP28 Presidency to set an example in climate leadership by prioritising sustainable food options at all catering outlets throughout the venue. Ethical Seafood Research (ESR) was proud to endorse this letter.

The letter outlined specific recommendations for COP28, including a call for at least three quarters of all food options on the menu to be plant-based and highlighted the importance of affordability, nutritional value and local sourcing where possible.

While some progress has been made in providing climate-friendly catering at previous Conferences of the Parties (COPs), the food on offer has not appropriately reflected the urgency of the climate emergency. This is despite repeated demands from attendees, especially youth groups and environmental activists, to step up and lead the way on transitioning to a plant-based food system. Disappointing experiences at previous COPs led the letter’s signatories to call for clear labelling on the carbon footprint associated  with all of the food on offer. 

Scientific evidence clearly shows that global food systems are a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, with animal agriculture accounting for a large proportion of that. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has consistently recommended transitioning to a more plant-based diet as one of the most effective ways to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change.

COP28 is an important opportunity for the UAE to set a landmark by becoming the first Presidency to make catering at these events local, sustainable and predominantly plant-based. Such a step would showcase the region’s rich local cuisine and position the UAE as a trailblazer in climate action, underscoring the important contribution of food systems to the climate debate.

By prioritising sustainable plant-based food options, COP28 has the potential to make a profound statement and inspire transformative change, demonstrating that climate action extends beyond the traditional energy and transportation sectors. Collectively, we can forge a path towards a more sustainable future where the food we consume respects the health of our planet.