UN biodiversity conference joins MFM

Delegates at a fortnight-long meeting in Sharm El-Sheik to enjoy two Meat Free Mondays  

COP 14 logo and image of colourful fish under the sea

Leading by example is the best way to convince others, so it’s good to know that the UN will be putting its money where its mouth is at a key conference on biodiversity this month.

Today, the governing body of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity – known as the Conference of the Parties (COP) – will meet for its biennial get-together. The fortnight-long conference, COP14, held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, takes in two Mondays, the 19th and 26th, and only meat free food will be served on both days.

And while he won’t be putting in a personal appearance as he did at the European Parliament in 2009, Meat Free Monday founder Paul McCartney has recorded a short video for the conference delegates, explaining the importance of meat reducing and the planet-wide impact individuals can make through our food choices.

The move, in collaboration with MFM, is intended to underline a message that has been hammered home recently in a series of scientific reports that have gained widespread media attention: if you’re concerned about the environment and want to do your bit, cutting down on your meat consumption is the most effective action you can take. Last month, an Oxford University study warned that people should be eating significantly less meat if vital carbon-reduction targets are to be hit.

This is reportedly the first time any part of the Biodiversity Convention COP has been fully meat free, an astonishing fact given the danger posed to global biodiversity by the livestock industry – and the fact that 2010-2020 is the UN Decade on Biodiversity. In the past few weeks, a major report produced by the conservation group WWF revealed that humans have destroyed 60 per cent of the planet’s animals since 1970, largely due to farming and our appetite for meat.

These two weeks of debate and discussion will play an important function, as delegates gear up for 2020’s important conference, COP15. By then, the countries that have signed up to the convention will hopefully have met all the points of strategy agreed in 2010, in Aichi, Japan, and will be updating their strategic plan for the next decade. So not only is it good that this year’s delegates get plenty of veggie and vegan brain food, but also that they ingest the lesson of MFM with every meat free sandwich: the we all need to be reducing our meat eating, and that each of us can make a difference, one meal at a time.

This is the 14th meeting of COP since the convention was opened for signatures in 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, and entered into force on 29 December 1993. It currently has 196 parties.