COP26 criticized for its environmentally unfriendly menu

COP26 criticized for its environmentally unfriendly menu
© Associated Press - Alberto Pezzali

Environmental activists are criticizing the menu at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) for featuring a wide variety of animal products, some that come with large carbon footprints.

The menu for the high-level climate conference was released online at arecipeforchange.co.uk, listing the carbon footprint next to each item.

Organizers included a note on the menu saying the average meal in the U.K., where the conference is being held, has a carbon footprint of 1.7 kg CO2e and said this number should be brought down to 0.5 kg CO2e in order to meet Paris Climate Agreement goals.

ADVERTISEMENT

Despite this, many menu items exceeded this carbon footprint — the summit's haggis dish recorded a carbon footprint of 3.4 kg CO2e, twice that of an average meal in the U.K.

The conference had a separate menu for burgers, half of of which had nearly the same carbon footprint as the haggis, though the other burgers were listed as having carbon footprints significantly below the national British average.

“The utterly reckless inclusion of meat, seafood and dairy on the COP26 catering menu is a damning indictment of the UK government’s utter failure to grasp the root cause of the climate crisis," Joel Scott-Halkes, spokesperson for climate and animal justice group Animal Rebellion, said to The Big Issue magazine.

"This is the equivalent of serving cigarettes at a lung cancer conference. Only when governments grasp animal agriculture's central role in the #climate crisis will we stand a chance of solving it," Scott-Halkes tweeted, with a photo of the menu.

ADVERTISEMENT

Animal products generally have higher carbon footprints than plant-based foods due to the greenhouse that animals produce; the land and water needed to raise livestock; and the added cost of transporting the products.

According to Our World in Data, one kilogram of beef produces on average 100 kg of greenhouse gases, including methane. Lamb, cheese and chocolate are also among the top culinary offenders.

Overall, the conference did serve many dishes with relatively low carbon footprints, such as salads, wraps and soups, most of which had carbon footprints below 1 kg C02e.

Speaking to Bloomberg, senior food campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity Jennifer Molidor said of the COP26 menu, "Overall it’s a huge improvement from past menus." However she added that “beef has no place at a climate conference.”