October 20, 2022
Mayor Eric Adams: Hello, I’m the mayor of New York, Eric Adams. Thanks to C40, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the Mayor of Buenos Aires, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, for inviting me to speak today. And thank you to my fellow mayors around the world who are doing so much to reduce emissions and build resilience, not just in the future, but now. 55% of the world’s population already lives in urban areas. A proportion that is expected to rise to 68% by 2050. And the decisions our municipal governments make open the green door to a world of abundance and equality. This is the world I want to talk to you about today. It’s a world where clean energy costs less and helps our children breathe easier. A world with more transit options and safer streets. A world where people eat healthier, feel better and live longer. This is the world we are building here in New York.
Let’s start with the facts and the food. Thanks to our public transit system and density, New Yorkers already emit less carbon emissions per person than virtually any other city in America. But when we dug into the data, we found that food is one of the biggest sources of emissions from our households and our way of life in the city, and it’s easy to control and change. . I know this because I have made these changes in my own life. One morning in 2016, I woke up and couldn’t see the numbers on my alarm clock. I went to the doctor who diagnosed me with type 2 diabetes. He told me that my driver’s license might be revoked due to vision loss and that I might have permanent nerve damage to my fingers and at the toes. I’m not the only person to have had this conversation with their doctor. More than 37 million Americans have diabetes. More than one in ten of us, 37 million.
When a number is this high, you can’t blame it on the individual. Such a high number means there is a problem with the system. And when I looked at our food system, I saw that it was not only unhealthy, it was unsustainable. Americans suffer from skyrocketing levels of obesity and chronic disease, and nearly one in five children are already overweight, putting them at risk of lifelong health problems. The American way of eating today is all about profit, not progress. About empty calories, fast food, not about health. We can’t live like this. The human body was built to run on plants, not processed foods, and the planet was built that way too. Nearly half of the fresh water used in the United States is used to raise food animals. One calorie from animal protein requires 11 times more fossil energy to produce than one calorie from vegetable protein.
13 percent of the world’s landmass is dedicated to raising meat animals. Reducing meat and dairy consumption in favor of fresh produce and grains is not just about improving your own life and health. It’s about transforming an entire system that exploits our natural resources, increases our carbon emissions and encourages unhealthy diets. And it starts with what’s on our plate. When I switched to a plant-based diet, I saw an immediate difference in my health. In three months, I lost weight, lowered my cholesterol, restored my vision and reversed my diabetes. But when these changes are rolled out across the city, they not only create better health, but reduce our emissions and improve our lives. As mayor of the largest city in the United States, my job is to pave the way for these kinds of big systemic transformations. Our city acts to make food that is good for our fellow citizens and good for the planet accessible to all.
We’ve already introduced Meatless Mondays and Plant-Fed Fridays at schools and made plant-based meals the default at New York City Health + Hospital facilities. Facilitating the right choice has been a great success. The majority, 60% of our hospitalized patients already choose plant-based meals. And these changes didn’t just improve health outcomes. They have reduced the carbon emissions of the food we buy as a city by 37%. We make choices like this all over the city. From serving plant-based menus at official mayoral events to supporting an emerging urban agriculture industry that includes locally grown produce, grains and beans. And we’re not just growing tomatoes, we’re growing the economy. Urban agriculture creates jobs and builds resilience at the same time. We are increasing access to healthy food and reducing emissions from transporting our food. From rooftops to classrooms, I have supported funding for education, training and enterprise in urban agriculture.
We created the city’s first-ever urban agriculture office and are working with our private sector partners to reduce waste, reduce emissions and increase sustainability. And we do all of this even as we promote new ways to build, live and generate energy. New ways to protect our city from rising seas and the strongest storms. New York City has never been afraid to try something new, and that’s more important than ever. Fighting climate change is not trying to keep everything the same, and it is not giving up our way of life. It’s about transforming it. It’s about making everything better and creating momentum for a new, innovative way of living and eating. Change is in the air and on the menu. Today is just the appetizer.