COP26: Veg Power's pledge to "eat more veg"

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

In this blog post we hear from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall about his involvement in our short film COP26: Veg Power's pledge to "eat more veg" that highlights the environmental benefits of eating UK and Irish grown vegetables. Our film can be viewed here. The film, produced with support from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and British and Irish vegetable growers including Riviera Produce, Greenyard Frozen, Monaghans, EVG and Barfoots, showcases how UK and Irish growers have invested and innovated to reduce their environmental impact, as well as the benefits to the planet of eating more veg and simple steps to help people achieve this.

“Things are moving fast at COP26, and after India’s commitment to Net Zero (albeit half a century from now), Biden’s pledge that the US will “keep 1.5 alive” and what looks like a grand international coalition to end deforestation, which even appears to have Bolsonaro’s Brazil on board, our Prime Minister must be feeling it’s all going rather better than he expected.

Indeed, it’s hard not to want to feel at least a little cheered by these apparent milestones. And yet…the actual policies which are going to make these pledges real are barely visible, lost in a heat haze on a distant horizon.

A big part of the problem is what’s not being talked about at COP26. And one glaring omission is the matter of our diet and its effect on the climate. As things stand, this will not get a proper airing at COP26, and that would be a massive oversight. Over 30% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from food, and it’s even more in many other countries. And one of the key drivers of global deforestation is the meat industry, as trees are cleared on a vast scale to grow crops for livestock.

That’s why it’s widely recognised by climate scientists the world over, that one of the biggest climate positive actions we can take as individuals is to eat less meat and more plants. Our National Food Strategy has called for us all to make that shift, and for a 30% reduction in meat and dairy consumption by 2030. Yet helping us make that shift is not part of the current government’s Net Zero Strategy, and it’s not even on the COP26 agenda!

And that’s why I agreed to present this short film for Vegpower. Many vegetable growers here in the UK and all around the world are finding innovative ways to help reduce the climate impact of their farming. Let’s recognise that and support them to do more. We can do that by simply buying and eating more of the vegetables they are producing. Vegetables are the major food group with the lowest environmental impact, and so eating more veg grown here in the UK really will help reduce our “carbon food-print”.

Of course we should be getting much more help in achieving that, both from government and from the food industry. But let’s not wait for that to happen. Let’s all make a commitment to eat more veg, and less meat, starting now. It’s good for us – and it’s vital for the planet."

 

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Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

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