Changing menus, focus on sustainable production: COP28 focuses more on food

By Augustus Bambridge-Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

The conference is focusing more on the food sector than in previous years. Image source: ricochet64/Getty Images
The conference is focusing more on the food sector than in previous years. Image source: ricochet64/Getty Images

Related tags COP28 plant-based

The food and beverage industry is inherently linked to the climate crisis, responsible for at least a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. The COP28 summit, held this year in Dubai, UAE, focuses more significantly on food than in previous years.

The summit, which takes place between 30 November and 12 December, gathers together heads of state and significant figures to tackle the challenge of the climate crisis.

Last year’s summit saw the inclusion of a pavilion​ dedicated to food for the first time. This year will see the summit pushing for an even greater focus on food​ and the way in which it impacts the climate.

Many of the events' sessions focus on food, from the macro - transforming food systems - to the micro - rethinking school meals to align with sustainability. 

Food-based solutions

COP28 provides a high-profile platform for food and beverage-based solutions to a problem that is inexorably linked with the food industry.

It's the best platform to showcase food security and climate-mitigating solutions to politicians, who are in charge of political will​,” Aleh Manchuliantsau, whose start-up, Planetarians, of which he is the CEO, will have a stand at the Tech and Innovation Hub in the second week of the event, told FoodNavigator.

AI-enabled scientific advances can be fast, but dealing with the physical world's realities we're stuck in the rigidity of established systems. We don’t invest in new equipment until we amortize the old ones. We block new players to the market because we want to keep our market share and profits​.”

Planetarians is one of a range of companies utilising side streams​, in this case breweries’ spent yeast, by transforming it into alternative protein. It hopes to use the event to speak to representatives from NGOs, governments and business in order to collaborate to build facilities that can upcycle spent yeast. Breweries in Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria and Belgium have already expressed interest. He also took part in a fireside chat at the event called 'Transforming Waste into Treasure".

Embrace the plant-based  

COP28’s menu will serve a range of plant-based options this year, with fare from companies such as Neat Burger and plant-based sushi brand Roots and Rolls. In fact, this year the menu (which the event describes as ‘1.5°C aligned’) is two-thirds vegetarian and vegan, which is significantly more than in previous years.

For example, at COP27, there were few vegan or vegetarian option, according to Lana Weidgenant, Campaigns and Policy Officer at ‘food awareness’ charity ProVeg International. COP26 was better, serving 40% vegan and vegetarian options.

While the menu isn't entirely plant-based, COP28 has taken a significant step in the right direction, by publicly highlighting the importance of climate-friendly diets and committing to serving two-thirds plant-based meals for the first time in UN history​,” she told FoodNavigator.

As a global event focused on climate change, COP28 serves as a platform for setting an example. Choosing a two thirds vegetarian and vegan menu sends a powerful message about the connection between dietary choices and environmental sustainability​.”

Food@COP, which campaigned alongside ProVeg International for the menu change, agreed, demanding that “organizers ‘walk the talk’ and ensure the ambition of the climate summit itself is reflected in the catering served to the delegates​,” they told FoodNavigator. While "historically there hasn’t been much focus on what’s been on the menu​," this year's menu is a step forward. 

We strategically asked for a 75% plant-based menu this year, and are certainly pleased with the ⅔ vegan and vegetarian commitment, but also see the opportunity for further ambition next year, and beyond​.”

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