Views from COP24: we need to include food and city systems in ambitious climate plans
By Reyes Tirado
An annual international climate meeting is a place for hard-core political negotiation. But it’s more than that. It’s also a fascinating melting pot of ideas, science and real life experience from all corners of the planet. Hundreds of side events bring about debates on innovative thinking and experiences that, above all, gives us a glimpse of hope in the middle of days of serious technical and political discussions.
And while many of my Greenpeace colleagues present at the COP24 were working day and night to push for an ambitious end document, as a scientist, I have had the good fortune, to be able to participate in inspiring debates about climate research and action initiatives.
On December 10th, a number of IPCC scientists, together with C40 and the Global Covenant of Mayors, presented an important report: What the IPCC special report on Global Warming of 1.5C means for cities. Summary for Urban Policy Makers. I was especially inspired by the words of Debra Roberts, lead author in the IPCC Special Report on 1.5C She said:
“To change the world, we need to transform cities.”
I couldn’t agree more. And cities are transforming. Away from fossil fuels and onto a new and better pathway of renewable energy and mobility revolution away from fossil fuels, to food. There are many Reasons for Hope.
Cities are changing their plates based on climate and health impacts. There are numerous examples. France just passed a law that promotes plant rich diets in all schools. In Washington DC, decision makers have agreed on legislation requiring more plant-based meals in schools. We need policies and accountability to drive a positive agricultural revolution that helps protect our forests, climate, and that allows for healthy food for all.
But we all also know, that in this complex web, governments have to step it up. They need to step back and fundamentally understand the IPCC report on 1.5 degrees, and this new summary for cities, double down on implementing immediate measures, laws, decrees. At Greenpeace, we believe we must reduce the production and consumption of meat and dairy by 50% by 2050 and cities play a fundamental role in realizing this vision. Therefore, we are asking cities to commit to adopt policies that ensures less meat and more plants in public canteens and schools. Our target is for cities to eventually commit to offering at least two mandatory vegetarian meals every week by 2020.
While we are anxiously and hopefully waiting for the tangible results of COP24, one clear thought is forming in my head: food might be one of the most promising ways to build bridges between people and countries all over the world to help handle the climate challenge facing us all today.
From rural farming communities coping with water scarcity thanks to ecological farming practices, to urban restaurants serving healthier local recipes, agriculture and food systems based on nature offer proven solutions to our climate crisis. What we choose to put on our plates is a powerful statement about the kind of world we want to live in. Our governments must listen to cities and citizens acting on food for a safe climate, and incorporate this into their climate plans.
Reyes Tirado is the resident scientist for Greenpeace’s Less Is More campaign and part of Greenpeace Research Laboratories.