December 11, 2018
By: Michelle Courtright, Window into COP24 Delegate

30,000 People Eating is a Lot of GHGs!

So thrilled to be here in Poland and see the excitement and commitment to climate change around me.

Welcome signs at COP24While I stood in line for registration, I met environmental advocates from Tel Aviv talking about the nutritional value of a good hummus dish and two women from Marrakesh talking about traditional braised greens. As someone who needs to eat pretty much all the time, my first stop was to find the food court. It was a big, beautiful buffet of options and I appreciated the local spin of Polish pierogies.

But although livestock agriculture accounts for more greenhouse gases than all transport on the planet combined, plant-based food options were limited to soup and steamed broccoli (when I was there). The Center for Biological Diversity recently issued a report from Katowice that had some interesting facts about the food here:

  • The COP24 menu features twice as many meat-based options as plant-based ones. These meat dishes generate average greenhouse gas emissions four times higher than the plant-based meals. The two dairy-free options generate one-tenth of the emissions.
  • The meat-based dishes on the menu require nine times more land and nearly twice as much water as the plant-based dishes.
  • If all conference attendees choose meat-based dishes during the 12-day event, it would contribute almost 4,500 metric tons of CO2, the equivalent of burning about 500,000 gallons of gasoline.

Emissions of food items on menu

“What people eat at a conference may seem like small potatoes when it comes to curbing global emissions,” said Farm Forward’s Claire Fitch. “But if those at the forefront of global climate negotiations aren’t going to ‘walk the talk’ at the highest-level climate conference, how can we expect the rest of the world to get on board?”

It’s not lost on me that we’re all here for a climate conference from across the world and presumably many of us have emitted our fair share of GHGs just to fly here.

But food is something we can choose, no matter if we’re here at this conference or watching from home on the news.

My goal is to reach out to the UN planners for next year and advise on more plant-based meals that can allow all stakeholders to appreciate great food but also reduce their carbon foodprint.

Michelle and bishopWe finished the night with a great reception of climate change activists including a bishop from San Francisco that has introduced a carbon-tracking app for her Episcopalian followers around the country and UN leaders that are looking for more stakeholders in the business community.

I am incredibly proud to be representing Climate Generation and Minnesota in a room of international people committed to solving the issue of climate change and look forward to meeting more amazing people tomorrow.