Updated: Mar 3, 2020
Young People ask for Climate-Friendly Food at COP
By Lana Weidgenant
COP or the annual United Nations climate change conference can easily be considered the most important and influential climate event of the year. It definitely feels this way for young people such as myself who climate strike, organize for our futures, and bring young people together all year with hopes of having our messages listened to by one or two key elected officials. COP brings together world leaders and powerful decision-makers as well as many professionals and advocates in the climate change movement.
At COP25 last year, aside from massive youth frustration at the lack of urgency taken around the climate crisis and repeated talk of COP26 (coming at the end of this year) rather than climate action now, there was also a repeated structural issue and inconsistency which frustrated attendees from across many countries.
YOUNGO representatives (the youth constituency of the United Nations) from Germany, the United Kingdom, Mexico, the United States, Spain, and more, expressed concerns about food catering not taking climate concerns and the greenhouse gas and resource-use implications of meat and dairy-heavy dishes into consideration at the leading climate conference for a very urgent movement.
Especially as many young people and younger generations are transitioning their diets towards more plant-centered due to environmental concerns, not making the connection between food, animal agriculture, and climate which the Golden Globes and Oscars already have can feel like another frustrating adult overlook of the issues. After all, just as climate conferences host experts in energy and greenhouse gases, they also host experts in food systems that see year after year talk of fighting climate change while offering food catering which makes large climate contributions to the issue.
Here is a visualization of the climate impacts from the food offered at the United Nations Climate Change Conference the year before last (COP24):
As you can see from the graph above sourced from the Center for Biological Diversity, greenhouse-gas heavy dishes at a gathering to combat climate change have been a consistent problem.
Young people have made the connection between food and climate. We know that agriculture is another massive industry fueling climate change alongside fossil fuel billionaires. We are doing our best to eat more plant-centered and what is better for the environment while also living under our parent’s roofs, at small college dorms with no kitchens, or between the offerings at high school and college cafeterias. Despite the obstacles, many people in my generation have gone vegetarian or vegan or are actively moving in that direction.
As with all climate action, we once again need adults to not only say young people give them hope, but to actually listen to us and use their positions of power to work alongside us.
And young people don’t just want climate action that is just preaching or telling others what to do, we want to lead by example especially at an influential event where it is completely within our power to do so.
As youth, we know that climate change is real, that it is urgent, that it will impact all of us but is impacting the most marginalized communities first. We know that climate change is being fueled by massive corporations including the wealthy leaders of fossil fuel interests and animal agriculture. And we don’t just want to talk about the problem, we want to act on it.
About the Author
Lana Weidgenant is a Deputy Director at the international youth-led climate justice organization Zero Hour. She also interacts with food-climate issues as an Advisory Board Member at Plant Dining Partnerships and Co-founder of Cultivate America.