COP26 menu under fire over large carbon footprint

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Glasgow's SEC is hosting COP26 Glasgow's SEC is hosting COP26

The menu at COP26 has come under fire for featuring a wide range of animal products, some with carbon footprints of twice the UK average.

One environmental activist referred to the menu as “like serving cigarettes at a lung cancer conference.”

A note on the menu says that the average meal in the UK has a carbon footprint of 1.7 kg CO2 and that to meet the goals of the Paris agreement this should be brought down to 0.5 kg CO2.

Critics have pointed to a number of menu items which far exceed these numbers, such as a haggis dish with a carbon footprint of 3.4 kg CO2 and a burger that weighs in at 3.3kg CO2.

“The utterly reckless inclusion of meat, seafood and dairy on the COP26 catering menu is a damning indictment of the UK government’s utter failure to grasp the root cause of the climate crisis," Joel Scott-Halkes, spokesperson for climate and animal justice group Animal Rebellion, told The Big Issue.

"This is the equivalent of serving cigarettes at a lung cancer conference. Only when governments grasp animal agriculture's central role in the climate crisis will we stand a chance of solving it," he added.

The menu for the climate change conference, currently taking place at the SEC in Glasgow, was released online at and lists the carbon footprint of each item.

More than half of the food on offer at the conference contains animal products, with 41 per cent of the food meat or fish based, while 17 per cent is dairy based. Around 42 per cent of the menu items are plant-based.

Most of the dishes available at the conference have relatively low carbon footprints, below 1 kg C02. And some delegates have welcomed the inclusion of the carbon footprint as a positive measure.

Ed Mitchard, Professor of Global Change Mapping at Edinburgh University, tweeted: “Great to have carbon footprints on menus of the cafes in #COP26. Means delegates can't ignore the 16x greater emissions of the beef burger over the veggie burger. I didn't see any choosing beef (small sample though!)”

Jennifer Molidor, senior food campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity told Bloomberg: "Overall it’s a huge improvement from past menus," before adding that “beef has no place at a climate conference.”

“We have worked hard to create low-carbon menus that are accessible to all,” SEC food business director Kevin Watson said in a statement. “We hope our sustainable food strategy will shape menus of the future as we all work to protect our planet.

“As well as providing great-tasting and nutritious food, our menus are focused on local and seasonal sourcing, with a plant-forward approach. We have been delighted to showcase and work with so many local Scottish suppliers and our teams are looking forward to supporting the event,” he added.

Paul Harvey
Written By
Paul Harvey
M&IT editor Paul Harvey is a journalist with more than 15 years of experience. He began his career in the local press, working for various titles across the north. Since joining M&IT in 2013, he has become a trusted and respected voice in the sector, championing event professionals and reporting on all aspects of the events industry for the brand.

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