Foodservice Footprint Bob COP28 Comment: Milestone moment Comment  news-email email-news

COP28 Comment: Milestone moment

Brewing and hospitality businesses have made good progress in reducing emissions, but now they need to move on from the easy stuff, says Bob Gordon.

COP28 is a milestone moment. And at a critical time. The UN predicts that 2023 will be the hottest year on record, with average temperatures 1.43 °C above pre-industrial levels. The world will take stock, with a comprehensive assessment of progress since adopting the Paris Agreement in 2015.

I think we can safely predict we’re not scoring an A*.  The Zero Carbon Forum has helped the brewing and hospitality sector to remove over 0.5MtCO2e from its collective footprint (about 8%). Which is great news. We’ve achieved it through a combination of reductions in energy consumption, and transitioning to renewable energy. But in truth, it’s the easy stuff.

The sector’s largest impact is in Scope 3. Food and drink comprises a whopping 70% of our sector’s footprint. Both our analysis, and Wrap’s, of the wider food sector, show that these emissions have remained fairly static in recent times. I’m expecting a similar result from COP28. Possibly worse. 

Good practice is emerging, but it’s not joined up, and it’s not happening at scale. The truth is we will not achieve systemic change without collaboration. Whether it’s global leaders at COP28, or the brewing and hospitality sector working together through the Forum, collaboration is essential. 

So, whilst some don’t have much faith in the COP process, it really is the best hope for country-level collaboration. We must adopt a global framework for emissions reductions and take bold action. The system exists, but we must get better at holding ourselves to account. 

We are systematically working with our members within a framework of measure; plan; reduce. Over 85% of our members now have a footprint and a climate action plan of 155 reduction initiatives. We are measuring, identifying hotspots and gaps, and making plans to address them. We are also leading collaborative action to accelerate progress on areas such as transitioning to regenerative farming, reducing the carbon impact of menus and engaging supply chains. Only through this process can we make meaningful progress. 

Given where COP28 is being held, and the nominated COP president, the focus of the conversation will be on fossil fuel extraction and electricity generation. But that’s not much help to our sector. Our sector has taken substantial action on scope 1 and 2 emissions, as I’ve explained. Three in four (75%) of our members have either installed renewable energy capacity, entered a power purchase agreement, or have transitioned to a renewable energy contract, (the rest are committed to do so), and scope 2 emissions now comprise less than 5% of our members’ footprints. 

We need to move much faster on food and farming though. The food system contributes around one third of the world’s carbon emissions; it’s complex; and it requires systems change. I don’t see COP28 pushing much of that forward at the pace required. Businesses know the changes required, and governments must provide the support to implement them at pace. We must keep pushing the agenda forward ourselves, and hope for more at COP29. 

Bob Gordon is Zero Carbon Forum director.