COP28 began today, Thursday 30 November with what seemed like a significant success. The Loss and Damage fund moved from abstract concept towards reality, with the UAE and Germany each pledging $100m to kick things off. A $24.5m commitment from the United States was distinctly underwhelming in comparison. In a restaurant, if you only have a couple of bits of small change left it is usually better to slip away quietly without leaving a tip. At least $100 billion annually will be needed in the Loss and Damage fund, but this is a start.
The COP28 agenda is packed, so the Laundromat would like to hone in on the matter of the buffet. The food industry accounts for a surprising 15% of total global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The world’s dairy farms alone emit more than global aviation. While we are listing shocking statistics, it is also worth pointing out that were we to stop using all fossil fuel energy overnight we would still overshoot the 1.5-degree warming target due to current food production and land use.
Delighted to meat you at COP28
This year the hordes of fossil fuel lobbyists are expected to be joined at COP28 by representatives of the meat industry, who are keen to detract from the fact that livestock farming is the world’s largest source of methane emissions and responsible for detrimental changes in land use that contribute to climate change. Leaked documents – rapidly become a COP28 specialty – seen by Guardian journalists and anti-misinformation specialists DeSmog revealed the PR campaign being organised for COP28 by meat industry associations. They appear determined to fight back against the scientific consensus that reducing meat consumption is an essential component of the climate action toolkit. COP28 delegates must not be distracted by the delicious thought of frying fillet steaks and take determined steps to promote the uptake of plant-based diets, especially in wealthy high consuming nations of the global north. It appears that the COP28 caterers are offering exclusively 1.5-degree aligned menus, so the meat industry delegates may have to resort to munching on beef jerky as they lobby away.
To be fair, meat is only one part of the food industry’s problem. While the world busies itself with the transition to lower carbon energy sources, the fossil fuel industry has spotted the opportunity to recoup some of its potential losses in that field with increased investments in food systems. Petrochemicals are heavily used throughout the food production and marketing value chain, in the form of fertilisers, mechanised farming, transport fuels, and plastic packaging. According to a Dalberg Advisors study commissioned by the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, food-related plastics and fertilisers account for 40% of petrochemical production.
Plastic fantastic for fossil industry
Food and beverage packaging is also the biggest contributor to the global Plastic waste crisis. With global average plastic recycling rates well below 10%, there is no solution in sight, and this should be a key focus for COP28 negotiations alongside fossil fuel energy issues. The Laundromat has regularly covered the efforts of the plastics industry to focus remediation efforts on downstream waste management measures rather than a phasing down of raw plastic production. The Global Alliance for the Future of Food is urging decision makers to treat fossil fuel use in energy production and food production as one intertwined crisis that cannot be addressed separately.
The perennially gloomy Laundromat hopes that COP28 will be the COP to end all COPs, with unanimous, legally binding, and properly monitored commitments to real climate action by all parties concerned. It will not dwell on the fact that the UK’s King Charles, Prime Minister Sunak, and Foreign Secretary Cameron each took separate private jets to attend the conference. Let us hope they all had vegan in-flight meals to compensate. At this early stage, we will also avoid focusing on the revelation that most of COP28’s official corporate sponsors have made no net-zero commitments whatsoever, and Iberdrola is the only one out of the 24 to have set Science-Based targets.