The New York City Mayor’s Office of Food Policy recently announced the city’s public commitment to a 33 percent reduction in food-based emissions by 2030. The announcement comes in response to the city’s first integrated greenhouse gas inventory, which finds food is the third largest source of overall emissions, behind transportation and buildings.
The new inventory was developed by the Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice (MOCEJ). It incorporates emissions from the production of goods and services New Yorkers consume, regardless of whether that production occurs in New York City.
“We are leading the world in ensuring we combat climate change and if we’re going to accomplish this goal, it must be accomplished by being honest. We cannot leave the third leading cause of climate change unacknowledged,” says New York City Mayor Eric Adams in a press release.
While New York City has measured citywide emissions since 2005, this is the first time the city is including emissions from household consumption. The inventory finds that 20 percent of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions come from household food consumption. The study reveals that New Yorkers can significantly reduce the city’s emissions by eating more low-carbon, plant-based foods.
“One in five metric tons of carbon dioxide that our city emits comes from food,” says Adams. “But all food is not created equal, the vast majority of food that is contributing to the emissions crisis lies in meat and dairy products.”
C40, a global network of nearly 100 mayors, modeled this information as part of an ongoing project to determine urban consumption indicators for data-driven climate action.
New York City’s schools and hospitals are already taking steps to reduce food-based emissions by serving plant-based meals as a default option. According to the press release, NYC Health + Hospitals – an integrated healthcare system operating public hospitals and clinics – is on track to serve 850,000 plant based meals this year. As of February 2023, this initiative has already reduced its food-based carbon emissions by 36 percent while also addressing public health challenges such as diet-related disease.
The city also introduced Plant-Powered Fridays in its public schools last year, inspiring future generations to spearhead the push for more just and sustainable food systems.
“New York spends hundreds of millions of dollars on feeding New Yorkers, and by using our buying power we can ensure that it is not only about caloric consumption, it’s about nutritional value,” says Adams.
In addition to reducing the city’s carbon emissions from food purchase, Adams has launched the Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge to encourage private, institutional, and nonprofit sector leaders to reduce their food-based emissions by 25 percent by 2030.
New York City’s commitments to food-based emission reductions support the city’s ongoing global leadership in climate initiatives. According to Adams, food cannot be ignored in the conversation of carbon emissions.
“We look at how food impacts everything. It impacts our physical health, mental health, our way of life, and today we are saying to New Yorkers, and really to the globe, that it impacts our planet,” says Adams.
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Photo Courtesy of Megan Thomas, Unsplash