International media organization TED just hosted its first climate conference last week, complete with fully plant-based meals. The Countdown Summit – TED’s first all in-person climate talks event – provided all guests with a completely vegan menu designed by acclaimed vegan chef Derek Sarno. TED’s flagship event invited climate activists, scientists, and industry leaders to discuss the ongoing and worsening climate crisis, focusing on threats such as the COVID-19 pandemic and animal agriculture.

By including a plant-based menu, TED garnered praise from several animal rights and climate activist organizations. While advocating for climate change and action, the TED conference steered away from contradicting words with actions. The summit hosted a series of speakers that discuss the importance of changing international food systems to adopt more sustainable, environmentally conscious standards.

The organization – which was founded 37 years ago – aims to provide a platform for leaders, activists, and innovators to broadcast their voices. Typically, TED hosts these individuals on online talks filmed in front of a live audience that focus on a singular subject ranging across scientific, social, political, cultural, and academic topics. The summit marks the first time the organization created a collective event to encourage more discussion between speakers and the audience.

On the heels of the United Nations Climate Conference (COP26), the Countdown Summit took place in Edinburgh, Scotland from Oct 12 to 15. The event hosted talks and panels from politicians, entrepreneurs, policy, scientists, artists, philanthropists, activists, and more to explore the potential for climate action and to highlight the dangers causing the climate crisis to worsen.

TED will revisit the conference on October 30 by hosting a virtual Youtube event that will showcase the highlights from the summit. Anybody can attend the virtual spotlight on the even. TED also announced that for the remainder of the year, its offshoot organization TEDx will arrange hundred of Countdown events to continue advocating for the advocacy goals deliberated during the conference.

Sarno’s plant-based menu emphasizes the need to include plant-based foods and food production into the conversation. The fully plant-based menu addresses issues around sustainability in the food sector. During the event, Sarno also contributed insights into his motivations for going vegan and what plant-based living means for personal and environmental health.

Several organizations announced their support for the TED Summit, regarding the decision as a necessary step to properly addressing the climate crisis. Meat and dairy products have been propelled into the spotlight concerning the climate crisis, especially after the UN’s IPCC report that situated animal agriculture as a key contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

“Animal agriculture’s devastating impact on the environment cannot be overlooked: intensive animal farming is responsible for an estimated 14.5—16.5 percent of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions globally, on par with emissions levels of the entire transport sector,” said Elizabeth Novogratz, Executive Director of Species Unite, an animal rights non-profit. Studies show that reducing meat and dairy production and consumption is one of the most effective actions we can take to avoid catastrophic climate change.”

The climate summit spent days discussing the impact that greenhouse gas emissions and other polluters have on vulnerable communities and ecosystems. Novogratz vocalized the importance of this charged decision, noting that food insecurity and climate change can be directly tied to the world’s dominant food industries and expansive animal agriculture.

“We applaud TED for listening to the science by serving plant-based, climate-friendly food at their climate conference. This sends a clear message to the world that they are serious about tackling animal agriculture’s catastrophic impact on our planet.”

The Countdown Summit took place ahead of the upcoming COP26, which will gather the top government officials from around the world to discuss how to tackle climate change. The Glasgow-based event will take place from October 31 to November 12. Unlike the TED-hosted event, COP26 has yet to promise to feature a fully vegan menu and food spread. Currently, a petition promoted by several activists organizations, Joquin Phoenix, and Billie Eilish is circulating, requesting the COP26 committee to exclude all animal products from the event.

“With animal agriculture being such a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, it is impossible to meet goals set out in the Paris Agreement without making changes to our global food system. Even if all other major sources of emissions were reformed, we will still fall short,” the letter reads. “Addressing these urgent areas in the UNFCCC COP26 meeting would help propel governments around the world to take action and would provide world leaders with another high-impact option to add to their toolbox for tackling climate change.

“We call on the UNFCCC to formally and publicly recognize the role of animal agriculture as one of the largest contributors of climate change and to open greater space for dialogue.”

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