In a declaration at COP 28 in December 2023, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the president of the World Health Organization (WHO), called for a shift toward plant-based diets to tackle the global health and climate crises. He said that the current food system harms people’s health by contributing to over 30% of greenhouse gas emissions and global diseases and that delivering plant-based diets could save up to eight million lives annually. He made public the organization’s commitment to supporting countries in implementing policies to improve diets and mitigate climate change.
As would be expected, the animal agriculture industry has criticised the WHO’s declaration at the event as its lobbyists are constantly pushing a pro-meat agenda. In the end, these lobbyists could not prevent over 130 countries from signing the Emirates Declaration on climate and health, which encourages the integration of food system transformation into climate plans. However, although the health declaration emphasised the need to reduce meat consumption, and despite the summit having plant-based catering, this does not go far enough.
The direction the delegates should have gone is the one proposed by the Plant Based Treaty campaign. At a press conference on 10th December 2023, COP28’s Food Agriculture and Water Day, the Campaign Plant Based Treaty, which has official UN Observer Status at COP28, launched a new report titled “Safe and Just”. This report called for climate negotiations to include a safe and just plant-based transition that supports everyone. The Plant Based Treaty’s adaptation of the Doughnut Economics model is concerned with finding ways to live in the green “safe and just” space within ecological limits while allowing communities to thrive in building the vegan world (which will solve all our major global crises, not just our climate crisis) with a transformation of the food system.