Exclusive: Former UN climate head joins Impossible Foods
Christiana Figueres, an architect of the Paris climate agreement, will be joining the board of alternative protein startup Impossible Foods, Axios has learned.
Why it matters: Figueres's move is a sign of the growing importance of the alt-protein sector, and an acknowledgement that solving climate change needs to include addressing food and agriculture, as well as energy.
What they're saying: "“[Figueres's] experience and insights into working with the global community on climate change solutions will be invaluable in our fight to save the planet,” says Impossible Foods CEO and founder Patrick O. Brown.
Background: Figueres, a former Costa Rican diplomat, oversaw the UN's main climate change body, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), from 2010 to 2016, including the negotiations that led to the Paris Agreement.
- Since leaving the UN, she's served on the board of the Spanish energy and infrastructure company Acciona, and founded the environmental advocacy group Global Optimism.
Details: Figueres tells Axios she sees Impossible Foods — which makes plant-based protein products, including the Impossible Burger — and the food industry more generally as "one of the main levers of change" on global warming.
- "The consumption of animal products — and especially the consumption of beef — is detrimental to personal health as well as planetary health, because of embedded deforestation," she says. "Impossible Foods is a company that understands the health argument and the climate argument."
- Figueres also views alternative protein products like the Impossible Burger — which aims to replicate the taste and feel of meat without the beef — as part of a larger case that carbon emissions can be cut without demanding untenable levels of consumer sacrifice.
"Climate action isn't just a burden. You can eat protein, but do so in a healthy way."— Christiana Figueres
What to watch: Whether Impossible Foods can continue to bring its price down to help compete with conventional meat.
- Last week the company reduced wholesale prices by about 15%, making the lowest wholesale price for the Impossible Burger $6.80 a pound, compared to $5.32 a pound for beef patties.
The bottom line: With the plant-based meat market projected to grow $85 billion by 2030 according to one analysis, consumers seem ready to be persuaded.