Looking back on COP28 and forward to COP29

The UN Advocacy Team at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28)

Now that all the dust has settled, it’s time to reflect on what was achieved – and what was not – at the negotiating table at COP28. In December, the ProVeg UN Advocacy team spent two weeks at the annual climate change conference, campaigning for a transition to more sustainable food systems as a key means of fighting and mitigating climate change. Read on to find out what we’ve achieved so far and what we’re working on in 2024.

So, what happened at COP28?

The 28th UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai began with the groundbreaking ‘Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action’. Signed by more than 150 countriesalmost all the member states of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – the declaration gives consideration to both global emissions and the livelihoods of farmers who are particularly affected by climate change. Among other things, the countries pledged to promote resilient and sustainable agriculture, recognize the needs of vulnerable groups – particularly women and young people – and promote food security.

ProVeg’s key aim at COP is to promote a shift to more plant-based diets as a necessary step to tackle the climate crisis. In 2023, through our work at the Food4Climate Pavilion, our communication with stakeholders and national delegates, and our collaboration with actors and organizations working in the food-systems sphere, we were finally able to put food systems on the climate agenda. While this was a crucial step forward, negotiations fell short of achieving concrete goals in terms of promoting food-system transformation. Our team is now getting ready for the next edition of the climate conference in order to build on 2023’s successes and push for more ambitious results in 2024.

[Photo Source: ProVeg] Celeste Righi Ricco (Change For Planet), Lana Weidgenant (ProVeg International), Juliette Tronchon (ProVeg International) – Food4Climate Pavilion

Successes at COP28

For the first time in the history of the conference, two-thirds of the catering was plant-based – thanks to the hard work of our UN advocacy team, together with the youth organizations YOUNGO and Food@COP. This groundbreaking move was the result of a joint campaign, which included an open letter to the COP28 Presidency – and a response from the presidency assuring us that they would be taking the issue seriously. Several meetings followed during the summer of 2023 in order to maintain the momentum and push for a clear and concrete commitment to sustainable, mostly plant-based catering. 

Shortly before the start of the UN Climate Change Conference, the COP28 Presidency confirmed that two-thirds of the catering would indeed be plant-based. And when it came to December, the offerings available at the conference site were fantastic. From wraps and salads to Mexican bowls, burgers, sushi and pasta, the wide selection of plant-based options was enthusiastically received by the delegates.

We also once again organized the Food4Climate pavilion. Together with more than 20 partner organizations, we delivered a complete program that showcased what a sustainable food transition could look like. It was the first time that ProVeg collaborated with other pavilions, creating a broader space in which food-system actors, stakeholders, and country delegates could meet and network. 

Although the various organizations involved have different perspectives and missions, we are all committed to promoting sustainable food systems. Only by working together can we achieve our global mission of replacing 50% of animal-based products with plant-based and cultivated foods by 2040. The Food4Climate pavilion created a unique sense of community and opened up new perspectives, while helping to bring the message of food-systems transformation to key decision-makers in the climate negotiations.

[Photo Source: ProVeg] Nanine Wyma (PAN International), Lana Weidgenant (ProVeg International), Juliette Tronchon (ProVeg International) – Food At Cop Night

Looking ahead: COP29 and the Bonn Climate Change Conference

Despite the groundbreaking declaration and the Food4Climate Pavilion, the official negotiations on agriculture and food systems were ultimately inconclusive, and decisions were once again postponed until the Bonn Climate Change Conference, which takes place in June this year. Although COP has finally adopted predominantly vegetarian and vegan catering, concrete action on food-systems transformation failed to emerge.

We are now working on accelerating the momentum at Bonn in June and at COP29 in Baku, Azerbaijan, in December. Our goal is to ensure that at least two-thirds of the catering will again be plant-based, sustainable, and affordable – a feasible objective, given the precedent established at COP28. Having already organized the Food4Climate pavilion twice, our UN Advocacy team wants to repeat the formula in 2024 and ensure that it is a permanent element of COP. The pavilion will provide a space in which passionate food-system stakeholders can meet and collaborate in order to create synergies and develop solutions together. For COP29 and beyond, ProVeg is working hard to ensure more concrete commitments and action from UN member states, particularly in the area of food and agriculture.

Make sure to regularly check our social media accounts for more updates on our UN advocacy work. 

Juliette Tronchon

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