Secondary Navigation

Transcript: Mayor Adams Commits to Reducing City’s Food-Based Emissions by 33 Percent by 2030 After Releasing new Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Incorporating Emissions From Food

April 17, 2023

Kate Mackenzie, Executive Director, Mayor’s Office of Food Policy: I am Kate Mackenzie, executive director of the Mayor's Office of Food Policy. I am so excited to be here with you for a historic and significant announcement because we're addressing, for the first time, the connection between our food system and our climate crisis. Since New York City is a food mecca with hundreds of diverse restaurants, retailers, and institutional food providers, like whom we're hosted by today, it makes sense that we take bold steps to lead cities nationwide in this effort. 

With Mayor Adams' leadership, New York City is reaffirming its commitment to reducing consumption-based emissions of greenhouse gases through our food, including innovative actions, policies, and initiatives. Today's announcements highlight how significantly what we put on our plate really impacts our climate and our environment. Mayor Adams has brought a fine resolution to the points of connecting health and climate in our city. I'm thrilled to introduce Mayor Eric Adams.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much and I really want to thank Dr. Katz and the entire team here, learning that we are producing and distributing 15,000 meals a day to the patients. You stop at a hospital and you visit your loved one and you see the food inside the room, but we don't realize the process and how much goes through this. And I was asking how did we respond during Covid. And we kept the food flowing because a pandemic does not stop a patient's needs and desire to be fed nutritional food.

This is a significant moment and we're going to look back on what we're doing here in New York and what we're doing in London and how this impacts the way we have been thinking. And it also is going to be an uncomfortable moment for many. It is easy to talk about emissions that are coming from vehicles and how it impacts our carbon footprint. It is easy to talk about the emissions that's coming from buildings and how it impacts our environment, but we now have to talk about beef. And I don't know if people are really ready for this conversation. And we can't have a level of hypocrisy where we want to ensure that we do local laws to address the emissions that's come from fossil fuel, but not willing to have a real conversation on what food is doing to us.
And I recall during my campaign for mayor when we first started engaging in the behavioral issues that's attached to unhealthy food, there was a lot of pushback. There was a lot of people who did not want to look at the science. And now more and more we're discovering how food that is nutritionally void has a major impact on the health of a person's mental state. And we know the story, what it has done for us physically, and that is why we're here in the hospital, talking about the role that food plays on our physical wellbeing. But now we are at a new level and this conversation is a very significant one.

So Kate, I want to thank you and all those who are part of this initiative as we look at how food impacts everything. It impacts our physical health, our mental health, our way of life. And today, we are saying to New Yorkers and really to the globe that it impacts our planet. I always say we have two mothers. One gave birth to us, the other sustains us, and we have been destroying the one that sustains us based on the food that we have been consuming.

I'm excited to announce that for the first time in our city's history, we're measuring just how much of an impact our food choices have on our emissions. First time we're doing this. We work with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and I want to take my hat off to our great corporate partner, American Express and EcoDataLab to put this new inventory together and we are grateful for their partnership. And again, as I mentioned, my colleague across the pond, Mayor Khan, and the partnership that New York and London are bringing together to lead on climate from both sides of the Atlantic.

The new integrated emission inventory we're unveiling today show that food is the third-biggest source of cities’ emissions right after buildings and transportation. Third, right after buildings and transportation. One in every five metric tons of carbon dioxide our city emits comes from food. But all food is not created equal. The vast majority of food that is contributing to our emission crises lies in meat and dairy products. 

We already know that a plant-powered diet is better for your physical and mental health, and I am living proof of that. But the reality is that thanks to this new inventory, we're finding out it is better for the planet.

I'd like to say that you can only inspect what you expect, and today we are inspecting what we are expecting. That's why today we are committed to reducing the city food emissions by 33 percent by 2030 and challenging our private sector partners to reduce by 25 percent by 2030. What this means is shifting the kinds of food we buy and serve. We've already started this work in our hospitals and our schools.

During my time campaigning and communicating with Dr. Katz, he was a real visionary in this area, we put in place a default menu of plant-powered meals. So while you are in a hospital to heal, you should be given nutritional food that is going to assist in your healing process. And it has been a success. People who have tried the good tasting, gourmet meals from Health and Hospitals, they are enjoying them and they are learning that it is part of the overall therapy of really healing for whatever reason they are in the hospital.

But we're also doing it in school. A young girl stopped me the other day and stated, "Thank you for the Meatless Mondays and Plant-Powered Friday." Our children are ready. They're ready to have good tasting nutritional meals. The conversation should not be about should we have stale pizza or not in our schools, we should be talking about should we be having pizza at all that is not healthy. We are moving in the right direction. New York City health and hospitals are serving plant-based meals as their default offering and on track to serve 850,000 plant-based meals this year. And that number really rings with us. People thought it was impossible, but we introduced it and did it. If you cook it, they will come and they are coming.

We are incorporating good food purchasing. This is probably one of the most important things we are doing and I want to thank Kate for her real vision on doing this. New York spends hundreds of millions of dollars on feeding New Yorkers. And by using our buying power, we can ensure that it's not only about caloric consumption, it's about nutritional value. And you could have good nutritional value with good tasting food. Food has to look good, it has to taste good, and it has to be good for you. And the more and more we lean into this area, the more and more we will excite the taste buds of New Yorkers as they get the nutritional value that they deserve. And if you don't believe it, just look over to my right, these two great chefs that's ready to have you taste some good tasting food.

New York City's leading in the world when it comes to combating climate change because we're using every option on the menu. And in some cases, we're going to change the menu. That is how you lead. We are leading the world and ensuring we combat climate change. And if we're going to accomplish this goal, it must be accomplished by being honest. You cannot leave the third leading cause of climate change unacknowledged. And when you do a comparison, the numbers that food contributes compared to transportation, they are extremely close. It's almost dead even. So we can't talk about cars, we can't talk about buildings if we're not talking about the food that also contributes to this crisis.

Today we are saying to New Yorkers who are serious about this charge of cleaning up our environment, we now have a new focus that also must include food. Thanks all who have been part of this important research and the ability to move us forward to address the climate issues in our city and the health issues that comes with it. Thank you very much.

Mackenzie: New York City has a long legacy and food policy. We were the first city in the country to establish nutrition standards for foods that are served and purchased by our city of New York that exceed our federal standards. And now we are expanding food policy to not just focus on the foods that we put on our plate, but broader food policy that includes environment. We'll also note that New York City by 2024 will be able to expand composting to all five boroughs to make sure that the foods that we are able to not put in a landfill are being composted and therefore reducing methane and a form of greenhouse gases. I will also say that New York City was the first city to join the Coolfood Pledge. We set the pattern for now the District of Columbia and also Los Angeles.

But furthermore, as Mayor Adams mentioned, we continue to lead globally. We were recognized by our good food purchasing efforts by the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, a network of more than 200 global cities with innovative food policies and New York's Good Food Purchasing program was recognized as a leader. We're also incentivizing farmers in our New York City watershed to improve agricultural practices that reduce greenhouse gases. Chief Climate Officer and DEP Commissioner Rohit Aggarwala leads our work that addresses environment and climate. I could not be more pleased to introduce Commissioner Aggarwala.

Commissioner Rohit Aggarwala, Department of Environmental Protection: Thank you Kate, and thank you very much Mr. Mayor. Just to build on what the mayor said, since 2007, New York City has every year produced a boundary based, a citywide carbon emissions inventory that calculates the carbon emissions from fossil fuels combusted within the city's boundaries, the trucks and cars on our roads, buildings inside our roads or buildings on our roads and the energy, the electricity generated and shipped to New York City. But until now, it has never included the carbon footprint of the things that we bring in from outside, the food we eat, the services that we import, the consumer goods, the clothing we wear, things like that.

And so today, as the mayor said, that's what's so important, that we are now expanding our data for the first time in a really important way. And again, I'll echo his thanks to C40 and EcoDataLab and American Express for their partnership. Only a couple of cities around the world have undertaken this. So the fact that New York and London are now doing this together, I think is going to make this a new standard for what cities have to do, as the mayor said, and it will shape policy.

One of the great things about New York City and its work on climate and in fact, one of the things that C40 has been so vocal about ensuring is that cities base climate action on the numbers. And so for 15 years, New York City has been aggressive on buildings’ emissions because buildings are our number one source of emissions, and Local Law 97 is a great example of that. We've been aggressive on transportation, on things like biking and bike lanes and transit and congestion pricing, all towards the fact that transportation has always been our second-largest source of emissions. We've also — as Kate pointed out — prioritized waste with our push towards composting and organics collection because until now, we've considered ways to be our number three.

And so as the mayor and Kate pointed out, with this new combined, or on that side, sorry, the far one, by integrating these two inventories, the carbon combustion that takes place in our city boundaries and that which we import, we have this much more complete understanding of what we actually consume. And as the mayor said, while buildings is still far and away number one and we can never lose sight of that, transportation and food are basically tied for second place. And so we will have to have an equal focus on transportation and food emissions.

I'd just like to say a couple of words of thanks to some of the other people involved. Of course, the bulk of the work here on the New York City side was done by Kate's office and by the Mayor's Office of Climate Environmental Justice led by Kizzy Charles-Guzman. And I would like to point out Isabela Brown and Ross MacWhinney who did an awful lot of the work, and of course the ever-present and ever-vocal Rachel Atcheson, without whom we would not be here today. So I look forward to working with you all and all of our private sector partners as we do evermore on the intersection of climate and food. Thank you.

Mackenzie: Thank you, Rit. So I've had the unfortunate experience of visiting a number of hospitals in my years. And I have to say, sometimes you really wonder what's under the lid when the meal is pulled off, when you're waiting. Is it going to be jello? Is it going to be something that's recognizable? And in the 11 public hospitals that are part of the Health and Hospital's network, Sodexo makes sure that you are excited about opening up what's underneath that tray.

And what I will tell you is that this partnership with Sodexo, an institutional food service provider that is leading the way in making sure that food is desirable, pleasurable, and helpful and plant-based. I want to echo something that the mayor said because the words are important here. Plant-based meals in our public hospital system are the default. That means when you open up your meal, it's a plant-based option. If you say, "Ah, I'm going to think I'm going to have something else," it's also a plant-based option.

What's really important here, and Mayor Adams is the strongest advocate for this, is that we have a personal connection to food and food is important to us and our cultures. Really want to appreciate the team at Sodexo for making sure that cultural influence is really baked into the foods that they're offering. It gives me great honor to introduce Senior Vice President of US Healthcare and Chef, Matt Marchbanks.

Matt Marchbanks, Senior Vice President, Sodexo Food Service: Thank you, Kate. And Mayor Adams, I have to thank you again for your leading from the front, your inspiration. If we talk about this journey, meatless Mondays, I think we started in 2019, and we've evolved. And what's exciting about that is you're in our playground today. This is the innovation forum. The chefs playing with R&D, but none of that would be possible either if it wasn't for Dr. Katz and your vision and commitment into food service and Health + Hospitals, and specifically Paul and Mercedes.

We went on a journey about three years ago to transform our team. We transformed how we were going to operate, what we were going to do. And honestly, from a culinary perspective, we can do anything we want in this building, but if it doesn't transform to the bedside and people don't understand the impact on their health or the inspiration is coming from a leader that “I can have a better life and I do have choices,” that's the difference. So we went out and got probably the best chef we could find in Chef Phil, and Chef Phil has led this transformation. And again, from the perspective of how it makes a difference in a patient's life, it has to resonate with me and I need to understand why. So that's the piece we're excited about.

From a Sodexo perspective, as a global organization, we've committed to a 34 percent reduction by 2025, and that's in direct and indirect emissions. We're proud and privileged to be a partner of New York City and Health + Hospitals, and we need to lead from the front with that. We need to do it in a way to where it impacts humans.

The four strategies we've put in globally to impact that and really to put some action to words is that sustainable eating is the key piece. That's starting with a plant-based diet. We need to influence our customers. We need to influence buyers and purchasers to help drive this mission so that we become a leader relative to purchasing power and impact. We need to source obviously lower carbon. You've heard a lot about that today and how the suppliers interact with us and how we can lead and influence them. The other two that are really important is one is around waste and the mitigation of waste and really trying to focus on that. And then the fourth is energy management. How can we do that and impact that and all the impact on emissions?

So again, thank you. You're going to get to experience some of this and really appreciate you being in our playground today.

Mayor Adams: Thank you.

Mackenzie: Thanks, Matt. The city enjoys partnerships and networks with a number of leaders, both domestically and certainly across the globe. The C40 Climate Network is essential to the innovations that we've been able to experiment with and to ultimately make policies out of. Really want to appreciate Kizzy again for your leadership at Climate and Environmental Justice, and Ross MacWhinney, who has been the data mind behind so much of this integrated inventory. And certainly with the urging and support from C40 and AmEx, I also really want to introduce Laura Jay, the regional director of the C40 Network.

Laura Jay, Regional Director for North America, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group: Good morning everybody and thank you. Congratulations to Mayor Adams, Commissioner Aggarwala, and the entire mayor's office for this innovative analysis to really understand the emissions from goods and services that New Yorkers use, and for your efforts to really harness the power of the community to reduce emissions. On behalf of C40, I'd also like to thank American Express for their funding and EcoDataLab for their technical support in modeling New York's emissions.

The work here in New York will help cities around the world better understand the full scope of their emissions and help them make better decisions that are good for us, our health, and the planet. C40 is proud to be working alongside our friends in New York and London and elsewhere to develop data indicators for consumption patterns and emission reduction. This will help cities find ways to map and reduce the emissions associated with the production and transport of goods and make healthy lower emission options available for all of us.

New York has long been a leader in using data to drive decision making, informing efforts to reduce emissions from transportation and buildings, which has been noted. This new data will really help the city take action on the third-largest area of global emissions, which is food related. The city's efforts show that large food purchasers, like the City of New York, can lead by example, increasing access to healthy food options while also reducing emissions. Thank you, Mayor Adams, your staff for your leadership with C40 in this important area of work and congratulations again.

Question: How is the city planning to reduce that emission [inaudible]?

Mackenzie: Sure. As I mentioned, the city has a long history of creating nutrition standards for the meals it purchases. In April of last year, Mayor Adams introduced our updated food standards in partnership and certainly clear support with Commissioner Vasan and Mayor's Office of Food Policy. Some of what those standards do is set maximums for the number of times that red meat can be served each week and really introduces the plant-based proteins and a floor for that, really encouraging chefs to go farther and certainly working with our vendors to introduce those new standards. So it's really the caps on meat. And again, as mayor mentioned, we have been for years introducing Meatless Mondays, but also, whether it's with our schools, in the public hospital system and across other city agencies, plant-powered Fridays is a clear way to drive those changes.

Mayor Adams: Great. Okay. Thank you. Thank you all.


Media Contact
(212) 788-2958