The 26th United Nations Conference on Climate Change (or COP26 as it is commonly known) is being held in the first half of November in Glasgow. The event aims to bring together global leaders to accelerate action in tackling climate change.

To put it bluntly, I recently watched David Attenborough’s latest documentary, Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet, on Netflix. If you have not seen it already, I highly recommend it. Despite having painted a horrific picture of the carbon that is already overheating our planet and the environmental boundaries the world is pushing to their limit, the documentary offers hope.

In the end, Attenborough suggests three simple but effective ways in which anyone can do something important to help fix our damaged planet. First, he suggests planting trees to extract carbon from the atmosphere. He also suggests reducing waste to a minimum. (These will be the topics for future columns on these pages.)

Today, I would like to focus on the third solution, which is probably the easiest of the three – eating healthy.
The world food system is thought to be responsible for approximately one third of all greenhouse gas emissions, with animal farming responsible for 18%. To see this in perspective, transport emissions are responsible for 13% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Forests – the lungs of the earth – are cut to create agricultural land, destroying natural habitats and biodiversity in the process, with methane from livestock contributing to the climate crisis. And by 2050, emissions from agriculture are expected to increase by 80%.

    Trees were burned after a huge fire broke out in a forest near Beit Meir, outside Jerusalem yesterday.  Firefighters are continuing efforts to extinguish the fire.  August 16, 2021. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI / FLASH90) Trees were burned after a huge fire broke out in a forest near Beit Meir, outside Jerusalem yesterday. Firefighters are continuing efforts to extinguish the fire. August 16, 2021. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI / FLASH90)

The EAT-Lancet Commission, which reviewed this issue, concluded that the best diet for our planet is plant-based. By literally eating your greens, each of us can play a role in helping the environment. But you should not give up burgers at all. Scientists suggest that if people simply followed more “flexible” diets, this would have a major planetary impact.

The idea is to reduce, not eliminate the consumption of animal products. A flexible diet includes eating more plant-based meals, including more seasonal fruits and vegetables, legumes, beans and whole grains. The more this is done, the greater the climate benefit.

And, according to scientists, not only can following flexible diets offer greater climatic benefits, but it can also bring back biodiversity, soil, water, nitrogen and phosphorus levels within a safe operating space.
So what is Israel doing to help people eat a more flexible plant-based diet?

Tel Aviv is known as the vegan capital of the world – with 17% of all Israelis being either vegan, vegetarian or flexible. Domino’s Pizza tasted her first milk-free pizza here. Adidas introduced its first skinless trainer in Israel. And the Faculty of Agriculture of the Hebrew University launched the first course in the world for the production of alternative proteins.

In the last quarter of 2020, meat and fish consumption in Israel fell by 10%. And during the blockages, “alternative proteins” enjoyed the highest growth rates of all food categories – growth thought to be the world leader.

Israel is also a global leader in the research and development of alternative proteins, with innovations that offer meat-like textures and flavors without the impact of meat carbon. Redefine Meat, for example, offers plant-based premium burgers, sausages, kebabs, pasta-wrapped cigars and ground beef for open flame roasting.

For real carnivores out there, there is also a real meat option, without the environmental footprint of ordinary meat: cell-based cultured meat and poultry products.

Actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio has invested in pioneer farms Aleph Farms – the first company to produce steak from cow cells rather than from slaughtering animals. And another actor Ashton Kutcher invested in MeaTech, which is using 3D bioprinting and tissue engineering technologies to develop sustainable agriculture up to the industrialization of animals.

There are also many alternative “milk” or real milk produced in a laboratory, without the impact of carbonated milk, such as BioMilk, ReMilk and Fantastic Farms. And researchers at Tel Aviv University are producing imaginary milk “from yeast, not animals”.

The rise of Israel’s food technology scene can also be seen outside of Israel. Else Nutrition, an Israeli herbal-based, non-soy, non-genetically modified formula for toddlers, for example, is being distributed in over 30,000 retail stores in the US. Redefine Meat is expected to expand in Europe later in 2021, and Asia and the US in 2022. Aleph Farms has even produced meat grown on the International Space Station!

In fact, the internationally renowned Food Institute has opened an Israeli branch, to use Israeli alternatives of plant-based and cultured meat proteins, to help transform the global food system.
As scientist Johan Rockström, who collaborated with David Attenborough in making the documentary, said, eating a healthy, flexible diet “may be the single most important way to contribute to saving the planet.” In this regard, Israel is contributing significantly.

Salad anyone?

The writer is a television news presenter and Middle East correspondent for WION of India (The World is One). Author of Tikkun Olam: Israel vs. COVID-19, it has helped multinationals report on their contributions to addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals.