Taking the Climate (and Forests) to Lunch

Taking the Climate (and Forests) to Lunch

Not on the plate - yet

Forests are getting more attention in the global discussion of climate change, and how to address it. They should. Intact tropical forests are, despite decades of campaigning on their behalf, still being cleared at alarming rates in the Amazon, in southeast Asia, and in the Congo Basin of central Africa. A lunch earlier this week hosted by Avoided Deforestation Partners (ADP) sought to draw attention to the need for, in particular, U.S. leadership to avoid further forest destruction as a central element of climate policy. It featured Nobel peace laureates Al Gore and Wangari Maathai (Brighter Green colleague) in conversation with veteran news anchor Dan Rather about the role and value of forests in slowing global warming and supporting billions of livelihoods.

Given the participants, the discussion was sure to be lively and timely. And substantive. Clearing forests produces up to 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, more as organizers noted, than the whole global transport sector (about 14 percent). But what, I wondered, would they serve for lunch? How climate friendly would the food be? Agriculture may be responsible for 30 percent of GHG emissions…and livestock 18 percent. Might the food be vegetarian and local (walking the climate walk?) Alas, no. It was (any guesses?) chicken. While chicken surely isn’t a no GHG food, it’s increasingly seen as the “meat of choice” for omnivores reducing climate footprints. This is the case even though chicken manure emits methane and nitrous oxide, and producing all that feed for the billions of chickens consumed each year in the U.S. and globally has multiple, and significant, forest and climate impacts.

The clearing of intact forests for huge plantings of soy, a common poultry feed, as well as cattle ranching was mentioned during the course of the lunch. But nothing was said – at least formally – about the climate or forest footprint of the food on our plates. At my table, three veggie plates were ordered and consumed. I can also report that Al Gore, impressive and focused in his remarks, did indeed eat his chicken. But not, at least from my vantage point, all of the green beans also served with his lunch (and mine).

Learn more about ADP’s work and its call to action for U.S. leadership on avoiding deforestation and supporting carbon markets here. To learn more about food and climate change, visit Take a Bite Out of Climate Change, run by BG colleague Anna Lappé.