The City of Edinburgh Council has endorsed the Plant Based Treaty, becoming the first Scottish city and first capital in Europe to join the initiative to tackle food-related emissions from animal agriculture and attributed deforestation, a key driver of the climate emergency. The proposed treaty is backed by 20 municipal governments worldwide.
Green Councillor Steve Burgess, first introduced the Plant Based Treaty to a Full Council Meeting in March 2022, where councillors unanimously voted to create an impact assessment on the implications of endorsing the Plant Based Treaty. Burgess said: “Edinburgh council itself now also has a fantastic opportunity to encourage far more plant-based eating and I look forward to the forthcoming council report on how we can do that. By declaring our endorsement, we are acknowledging that food systems are a main driver of the climate emergency and that a shift towards plant-based diets can go a huge way in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Plant-rich diets are also a ‘win-win-win’ for society: they have a lower environmental impact, significant health benefits, and reduce animal welfare impacts.”
Following the publication of the impact assessment report on Friday, 13th January 2023, it was presented at the Policy and Sustainability Committee on Tuesday, 17th January.
The report acknowledges “diets high in plant protein and low in meat and dairy make for lower greenhouse gas emissions, and that consequently, shifting consumption towards plant-based diets has a major mitigation potential,” and states, “Overall, the science is clear, meat and dairy consumption must reduce to achieve climate targets.”
The report shows food and diet account for 23% of Edinburgh’s consumption-based footprint with 12% of these emissions from the consumption of meat. The report states, “a shift to plant-based diets would therefore significantly reduce the city’s consumption-based emissions.” The report’s findings have been echoed elsewhere, too. A 2019 report from the C40 network cited food as the biggest source of urban consumption-based emissions and noted that a move to a plant-based diet offers, by far, the biggest opportunity for emissions savings in cities.
Burgess said, “Green councillors very much welcome the decision by Edinburgh council to endorse the Plant Based Treaty as we proposed. Edinburgh council’s leader will now be writing to the First Minister of Scotland to encourage the Scottish Government to also express support for a Plant Based Treaty to be negotiated at a global level.”
Nicola Harris, communications director at Plant Based Treaty said, “Edinburgh has lived up to its reputation as a global climate leader by acknowledging the critical need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the food system to achieve our climate targets. Promoting plant-based food across Edinburgh will help residents make informed choices that are better for the planet, personal health and animal protection.”