Serve vegan burgers in schools says report

Researchers urge governments to use public procurement of plant-based proteins to bring about cascading changes that help tackle climate change and Vegetarian media guru Mark Boardman discusses the topic with the BBC.

Governments should force prisons, schools, hospitals and other state-run institutions to serve more vegan burgers, sausages and fillets in order to trigger a dramatic shift in global agriculture, a team of researchers has proposed.

They identified public procurement of plant-based protein as a “super leverage point” that would spark cascading changes throughout the global food system.

Yesterday BBC radio London welcomed renowned entertainment journalist Mark Boardman who has been a Vegetarian for 28 years and is particpating in veganuary this month. The 42 year-old celebrity publicist who manages London red carpet events including London film premieres said he was particpating “As a chance to reset health priorities after over-indulging during the holidays”.

Mark Boardman biography | showbiz reporter, jouralist and celebrity publicist

On snacking he told the BBC “I love my sugary foods, besides cheese and anything that tastes good, resisting the temptation to put milk in my tea (someone I have done for 35 years) was somewhat harder than I ever imagined but I am going for it.”

Mark added “Going vegan is a real test of will power and it also gives him a chance to try new foods that he would otherwise never eat”.

As a fussy eater Boardman who is a regular celebrity panellist on radio said “If you are 99% committed then you have to make the decision every single time, but if you are 100% commited to is – the decision has already been made for you”.

Serving more plant-based foods in public institutions would help the alternative protein sector to scale up and bring down its costs, while also boosting the popularity of these products with the public, according to a report with the University of Exeter, UK states.

Should vegan alternatives displace 20 per cent of meat sold globally, up to 8 million square kilometres of land used for livestock farming could be redeployed for climate-positive schemes.

“You really get a disproportionate reduction in land use demand, which is obviously a big source of emissions,” he says. “Then you’re liberating land on which you could do reforestation, afforestation, rewilding.”

Public procurement of plant-based proteins is one of three “super leverage points” identified in the report as small interventions that can cause a cascade of decarbonisation.

Introducing a mandate for at least 25 per cent of ammonia fertiliser to be made using green hydrogen would be another, the report said, by increasing the deployment of electrolysers to bring the price of green hydrogen to as low as $1.50 per kilogram. This could in turn make green hydrogen a viable fuel for ships and, eventually, steel production.

Meanwhile, requiring car manufacturers to produce a certain volume of electric vehicles each year would help to push zero-emission driving into mass adoption. This could in turn significantly reduce the cost of electricity from renewables and related storage solutions, by accelerating lithium-ion battery development.

The idea was to design interventions that trigger positive tipping points, where a shift to a greener society becomes unstoppable, says Lenton. These would act as a counterpoint to climate tipping points – such as the thawing of permafrost – that researchers warn would be irreversible and could speed up climate change.

“It was always apparent to me that sometimes in human social systems you get abrupt, self-propelling and often irreversible changes,”. “We need to find and trigger positive tipping points to avoid those bad climate tipping points.”

The report, which will be presented today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, is backed by the Bezos Earth Fund, a philanthropic venture from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

The interventions, designed for governments around the world, will inspire positive change rather than ban polluting activities, says an author of the report.

“None of these are about banning the old,” he says. “They are about supporting and lifting the new, to help them be as competitive and attractive as possible. So we get to a place where we don’t need a ban, because everyone wants the new thing anyway.”

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Stevie Flavio
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