Food, our most important everyday choice

Climate change is the biggest challenge of our time. It takes states, companies, organizations and citizens to be tackled. Concrete actions must be taken immediately, there is no more time for pondering. As one of the measures to fight against climate change, the Zero Emissions Summit was organized in New York during the UN Annual Meeting. The Summit aimed at emphasizing people’s possibilities to influence in fighting against climate change.

The Zero Emissions Summit was opened by the President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, who once again demonstrated leadership by emphasizing the severity of climate change. He also showed his own commitment by telling how he tries to reduce his own carbon footprint. As one of his own key actions, Niinistö told about his goal in reducing food loss. At the end of October, Niinistö reported on Twitter that he eats meat only once a week.

Minister Kai Mykkänen was also one of the speakers in the Summit. He stressed the importance of personal choices of each citizen. As an example, he reported on his own efforts to reduce meat consumption in his family. Mykkänen admitted that achieving the goal requires some effort, but by using common sense you will make it.  My own keynote was as well focused on the topic food, particularly how reducing meat consumption can affect climate change.

The countries that have signed the climate agreement in the UN Climate Summit in Bonn in November are looking for rules on how to report on their emissions and the reduction of these. It is obvious that countries will have to increase emission cuts already during the next few years. According to the report of UNEP, the environment program of UN, current emission commitments only cover one third of the emission cuts needed to limit atmospheric warming to two degrees. Also in Bonn, the importance of food emerged as a major means in fighting against climate change: if we do not affect our food choices, we will never reach the climate goals.

Why have food, and especially meat been a main topic at recent meetings and events?

If cattle were a country, it would have the third largest greenhouse gas emissions in the world. The expansion of agriculture is the main source of deforestation. Approximately 80 % of the agricultural land is used for livestock production. In Finland, food accounts for 20 % of the carbon footprint, which is equivalent to transport emissions. By eating environmentally friendly, each one of us can effectively slow down climate change.  But how to make people change their diet towards a more environmentally friendly alternative? Firstly, people should be provided with easy-to-implement solutions, the effects of which can be measured. Two good examples when it comes to food and carbon footprint are the meat guide of WWF and the Baltic Sea Card of Ålandsbanken.

The WWF Meat Guide is a mobile application that provides practical guidance for responsible choices. It encourages everybody to eat less meat and increase the amount of vegetables and sustainably caught or raised fish. In addition, the Meat Guide advises you to choose more environmentally friendly meat on your plate if you decide to eat meat every now and then. Actually, climate-friendly food is also healthier than food including meat!

The Baltic Sea Card launched by the bank of Åland was also presented at the Zero Emissions Summit. The Baltic Sea Card is a completely unique biodegradable payment card that shows customers the carbon footprint of their average purchases and sends an estimate of this to the Internet Bank or to the Mobile Bank. Customers can also make donations to important environmental projects. By illustrating how we as consumers affect the environment, the bank of Åland hopes to make it easier to make conscious choices in everyday life.  In addition to this, the Aland Index, measuring carbon dioxide emissions and linked to the Baltic Sea Card, is open to other banks as well. The world cannot be saved alone, but it is possible to do together.

I encourage everyone to save the planet one portion and one purchase at a time. Let’s be climate heroes in our everyday lives.

Liisa Rohweder
Main secretary, WWF Finland