Hope Shines Brightest in the Dark
Our Chief Executive Richard McIlwain looks to the future as we approach the end of what’s been a sticky summer for the green movement..
Gosh, it all feels a bit flat at the moment for the green movement, doesn’t it? Many European countries are baking in record temperatures, with only the jet stream preventing the UK from also experiencing this. The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (or AMOC), a conveyor belt for moving heat from south to north, is forecast to weaken due to climate change, causing further changes to weather systems.
Rishi Sunak has issued a load of new licences for North Sea oil and gas and still won’t commit to attending COP28 in Dubai. And just this week, the plant-based meat market leader Beyond Meat reported a substantial downturn in revenue as customers respond to rampant food inflation by cutting back on bills.
But, to quote a line from Vegetarian Society patron Sir Paul McCartney’s song ‘Hope for the Future’, hope shines brightest in the dark. Even if the prime minister doesn’t attend COP28, there will be a substantial shift in emphasis, with the United Arab Emirates presidency putting agriculture and food systems firmly on the agenda. Under the UAE presidency, world leaders will be asked to sign up to a world-first Declaration on Food Systems, Agriculture and Climate Action.
The declaration will ‘invite’ governments to put in place plans for food and agriculture that meet their nationally agreed commitments on greenhouse gas reduction, and seek to accelerate and scale up good practice. Obviously, it’s all just words at the moment, but the fact it’s even being talked about in these terms is a major step forward.
In another key move, the UN has confirmed that menus at COP28 will comprise mainly plant-based foods, rather than the meat-heavy menus of previous conferences. It does feel like the debate around food and its role in the climate crisis is now shifting, even if we should have been doing this 10 years ago.
And while Beyond Meat’s sales have taken a short-term knock, the market research experts at Mintel forecast that the trend for low-carbon vegetarian and vegan foods is forecast to bounce back and grow strongly from 2025 onwards. After all, climate change and biodiversity loss aren’t exactly going to be solved anytime soon.
But perhaps most encouragingly, a recent survey by Statista suggests that 43% of young adults are planning to ditch meat in 2023, compared to just 5% of the baby boomer generation. If food businesses aren’t gearing up for the next generation, then they probably won’t survive. And in gearing up for the next generation, it appears they should be prioritising brands that are increasingly vegetarian and vegan.
Hope really does shine brightest in the dark.