COP26 Failed Us: Here’s What We Can Do

November 12th marked the last day of the event that many believed to be the world’s last chance to get climate change under control.

COP26 was unlike any other climate summit before it. This year had a unique urgency. An urgency that the world was expecting world leaders to act accordingly upon.

After the COP26 round up report was released on November 12th it became clear that world leaders did not act accordingly. Nothing better sums up the failures of COP26 than the long queues in the food hall for high-emission meat dishes.

Cop26 Failure

Image Source: The Independant

At every food outlet, delegates were informed of their food’s emissions footprint. At the Scottish Larder counter, the meat haggis was labeled as 34 times worse for the climate (3.4 kilograms of emissions per serving) than the nutritious and healthy pearl barley stew (0.1 kilograms per serving). Yet thousands of delegates—people working to address the climate crisis!—chose the climate-wrecking option.

Although the food system is responsible for at least 25 percent of all emissions, it was addressed in less than 0.1 percent of discussions at COP26. 

Research published in Glasgow on Tuesday, shows that temperature rises will top 2.4C by the end of this century, based on the short-term goals that countries set out at COP26.

That would far exceed the 2C upper limit the Paris accord said the world needed to stay “well below”, and the much safer 1.5C limit aimed for at the Cop26 talks.

At that level, widespread extreme weather – sea-level rises, drought, floods, heatwaves and fiercer storms – would cause devastation across the globe.

COP26 Failure

Image Source: AL Jazeera [Henry Nicholls/Reuters]

But it’s not that we are lacking solutions, it’s just that no one is willing to talk about it. 

Many governments around the world are so invested and intertwined with the animal agriculture business, that asking world leaders to address animal agriculture would be akin to asking a plastic producer to sign a bill to outlaw single use plastic.

Cop26 Meat

Image Source: Plant-Based News

Some of the biggest problems that impact climate change are carbon emissions, methane emissions, deforestation and ocean dead zones. These are all problems that are hugely affected by our food choices.

  • Animal agriculture production emits carbon
  • Animal agriculture emits methane 
  • Food waste emits methane
  • Imported food emits carbon
  • Grazing farm animals causes deforestation which reduced carbon absorption (and often leads to carbon emissions when the trees are burned or left to rot)
  • Growing crops to feed farm animals causes deforestation which reduced carbon absorption (and often leads to carbon emissions when the trees are burned or left to rot)
  • Overfishing causes ocean dead zones 

Although it is incredibly disappointing and disheartening that animal agriculture was not properly addressed at COP26, the good news is that we can actively make a change here just through our daily food choices. 

Covid-19 & Plant-based Diet

So here’s what we can do to try and make up for the failure of COP26:

  • Eat plant based – Avoid animal products (including dairy and eggs) as much as possible and aim to eat a 100% plant-based diet.
  • Eat locally sourced produce (But remember, it’s still better for the planet to eat imported plant-based products than locally sourced animal products)
  • Don’t waste any food! Always eat your leftovers! Organise your fridge so you eat the foods that will spoil first and freeze what you can’t eat.
  • Compost your scraps. Do not throw food peelings and scraps in the trash. Organic waste will not degrade properly in a landfill and will start producing methane.
  • Eat organic produce. Organic produce limits soil desertification. (Soil desertification means less carbon sequestration). But always choose non-organic plant-based food over organic animal-based food!
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