UAE minister says 'climate-friendly' school meals to be unveiled at Cop28

Mariam Al Mheiri highlights pressing need to cut food waste, address hunger and promote local produce

Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister for Climate Change and Environment, discussed plans for climate-friendly school meals at a key food summit. Photo: Mariam Al Mheiri / Twitter
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The UAE's Environment Minister says “climate-friendly” school meals can help to protect the planet.

Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister for Climate Change and Environment, set out plans to “reinvigorate menus” by harnessing clean energy, promoting local produce and cutting waste after taking part in key talks on the final day of the UN Food Systems Summit in Rome on Wednesday.

She said the initiative would be rolled out at the Cop28 climate conference in Dubai, which gets under way in November.

Ms Al Mheri, who is also Minister of State for Food Security, made her remarks on social media after taking part in a session co-hosted by the World Food Programme.

“it was a pleasure to join the high-level breakfast co-hosted with the World Food Programme to discuss the emerging initiative on climate-friendly school meals, which will be launched at Cop28,” Ms Al Mheiri wrote on Twitter.

“We aim to reinvigorate our school meals by embracing clean energy, diversifying our menus with local produce, weaving climate education into our curriculum, and staunchly reducing food waste.

“These steps will spur demand-driven climate actions in local agriculture, promoting regenerative farming and biodiversity.”

She said the school meal scheme was part of wider efforts to make food production and consumption more sustainable and to combat global hunger.

“We are committed to building climate resilient farmer organisations, harnessing innovative financing to support local entrepreneurs and prioritising a climate-responsive approach in our national adaptation plans,” she said.

“These plans serve as a social tool, a catalyst for addressing systemic issues from child hunger to gender equity and sustainable consumption.

“The UAE firmly believes that by working together, our nations have the power to cultivate a future that is sustainable, equitable and prosperous.”

On Monday, Ms Al Mheiri unveiled the “food systems and agriculture agenda” for Cop28 that aims to tackle the issue in four ways: galvanising national leadership, involving non-state actors, boosting innovation and scaling up finance.

Launched at the UN Food Systems Summit, Ms Al Mheiri said it was the “strongest push ever given to food systems and agriculture in the Cop process”.

Ms Al Mheiri also called on governments to sign the first “leaders' declaration on food systems, agriculture and climate action”.

A recipe for success

In December, A UAE environmental task force was established in a bid to reduce food waste in dozens of schools across the country.

The Waste-Free Schools campaign aims to educate pupils and staff on the steps they can take to bolster the environment.

The strategy was set out at the second meeting of the UAE Council for Environmental and Municipal Work, chaired by Ms Al Mheiri.

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment signed an agreement with the Emirates Schools Establishment, the UAE's public education operator, Abu Dhabi Waste Management Company, known as Tadweer, and Bee’ah Group to implement the plan at 63 selected schools.

It was not revealed when the project would come into effect.

On the road to Cop28 – in pictures

Updated: July 26, 2023, 4:39 PM