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A Q&A with Impossible Foods’ newest board member, Christiana Figueres

Photo Credit: Jimena Mateo

Impossible Foods announced today(opens in a new tab) that Costa Rican diplomat, former United Nations’ leader, and global climate and conservation activist Christiana Figueres(opens in a new tab) has joined our board or directors(opens in a new tab). Figueres(opens in a new tab) brings decades of experience in international diplomacy, climate change policy, and sustainable development to our team, and we couldn't be more thrilled to have her. We sat down (virtually!) with Christiana to hear about her outlook on the fight against global climate change(opens in a new tab), and why she chose to join Impossible Foods.

Why did you decide to join Impossible Foods' Board of Directors?

We are at the point now where we really have to make decisive changes over the next 10 years to reduce global emissions by 50% by 2030. There’s no more playing around -- we need to take action. There are a few areas that I’m most focused on -- the finance sector, the energy sector and, of course, the food system sector, which often manages to escape our collective attention. That’s why I decided to add it to my portfolio. I see the fight against global climate change as a three-legged stool: energy, finance and food systems.  Furthermore, as we have all learned this year more than ever, there is a huge overlap between human and planetary health. A plant based diet is good for both. 

What are the most important steps we need to take as a global community to effectively combat the climate crisis?

We need to move beyond the climate community, and speak to people other than climate junkies about the detrimental planetary and human health effects of meat. Impossible Foods is a company that understands both of these arguments and is pushing the envelope on how we can change eating habits without necessarily having to change taste buds.  If we have to change taste buds, we’re facing an uphill battle. Instead, Impossible Foods is accepting our taste buds as they are and providing nutritious and more responsible alternatives. 

The fact is that we can be responsible planetary citizens and still eat well. In the new era of climate activism 2.0, we understand that climate action doesn’t need to be a burden. It continues to be a responsibility, yes, but that responsibility is actually associated with opportunities more than burdens. This mental paradigm shift will come from policymakers, but also from everyday citizens who recognize that they can make a planetary impact through their personal diets. The food system sector is a very exciting area of change because it is 100% under our individual control. There are few things that are more squarely under our control.

Other than global temperature rise, what are the other important reasons to prioritize a shift in how we eat?

There is a rapidly growing awareness of the effects of red meat on our health, and change is coming not just from vegetarians and vegans, but meat lovers who want to eat more healthfully. We have seen a huge spike in awareness of personal health since the onset of COVID, which means that fewer people want to eat red meat. If you can give consumers a tasty, good-looking, good-smelling alternative, they are going to take that instead of the red meat.

We’ve also grown much more aware of the need to protect natural ecosystems. We understand that this virus, and many that came before and will come in the future, is the result of human encroachment into natural ecosystems. I’ve seen a rapidly growing interest in companies and industries investing in the protection of natural ecosystems, and that is cause for optimism.

Are you leaning towards optimism?

We should not assume that the moment we stop creating emissions, we'll see an impact on climate change. But yes, I am optimistic. We’ve already seen a 7-8% fall in emissions during the pandemic, and I believe we will continue to see a drop in emissions thanks to new technologies and changing behavior. If you chart it out you may see peaks and valleys, but the overall trend over the next 10 years will be a reduction. 

What are you hoping for from a Biden administration?

The new Biden administration has already put together a climate team, including the EPA and special envoy John Kerry, and we are quite happy with the team members. What it shows is that climate is not going to be a silo topic but a distributed focus for the entire government. The fact that the Democrats also have the Senate means that there is an easier run for legislation. But it also means they have a MUCH bigger responsibility to act quickly and decisively to bring the US up to speed with other nations that have been focused on climate while the US was out to lunch. This administration presents a huge opportunity, but we need to make immediate changes domestically, and then work to regain global leadership.

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