Today was by far my most thrilling day of COP24.
When I started researching livestock’s effect on climate change, I leaned heavily on the research coming out of Oxford University’s School of Food. The lead researcher, Marco Springmann, was part of a panel today that included food experts from around the world. His findings have been instrumental in showing that livestock production is not only inefficient from a water and energy consumption perspective, but with population growth expected to top nine billion people, it’s not just not a viable option.
Knowing that 95% of the world is not likely to go vegetarian by the year 2050 (something that would reduce GHGs by approximately 60%), he instead encouraged “flexitarian” diets. This allows people to still enjoy meat, fish, and dairy in their diet in moderation but encourages the vast majority of food to be plant-based. He also recommended that we should start labeling food’s greenhouse gas impact, along with nutritional information.
Why not learn how much carbon is in the production of that plastic-wrapped sandwich at Starbucks, while you’re also looking at the calories?
Also on the panel was Marie Persson from the Nordic Food Policy Lab, an organization from Scandinavian countries who has created practical plant-based solutions to climate change. They have worked with private businesses and municipalities in Norway to create menus for institutions that significantly reduced carbon emissions while also lowering food costs for schools, hospitals, government buildings, and other large organizations.
They were not only able to reduce GHGs by 30%, but they lowered food prices by 60% by replacing meat with plant-based options. It’s estimated that we spend approximately $350 billion on livestock subsidies in the United States alone.
Can you imagine the environmental and financial benefits if we flipped that coin and started reducing emissions while also saving taxpayer dollars?
Jenny Chandler from Forward Food explained her work in mentoring classically trained chefs to migrate to plant-based menus that are delicious and satisfying. Her work as the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization representative on pulses (beans, lentils, and peas) allowed her to create menus that help promote plant-based eating and environmental conservation.
We were lucky to finish our day with a visit to Greenpeace’s Climate Hub and meet the former President of the Maldives speaking on his experience of fighting for his country’s survival from climate issues. Later we had a large dinner with representatives from Green Course, Humane Society International, and many others involved in animal agriculture, so I was able to learn best practices from people who have been coming to COPs for many years.
Although all the information is staggering and endless, it was great to be surrounded by people who care about food just as much as they care about the planet.