Edinburgh first European capital with ‘plant treaty’ for food emissions

‘Meat and dairy consumption must reduce to achieve climate targets’, says Scotland’s First Minister as local government considers implications of policies to limit land use for livestock farming, promote greener diets and expand rewilding efforts.

So far, 20 municipal governments have enacted similar policies, including Los Angeles and Boynton Beach in the US, a number of cities in India, and Didim, Turkey. Overall, more than 240 individual councillors from around 60 towns and cities in the UK have now signed the treaty to voice their personal support for the movement, taking in members of the Labour, Conservative, Green and Liberal Democrat parties.

cliff near buildings during daytime

The idea is to help tackle the overall environmental impact of agriculture in its current form, which is known to devastate ecosystems through deforestation, cause air pollution through sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and ammonia, and harm the planet’s carbon storage capacity.

The idea was presented in the Scottish capital at a Policy & Sustainability Committee meeting on Tuesday 17th January by way of an impact assessment report published a week prior. Among other things, this acknowledged that ‘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… Overall, the science is clear, meat and dairy consumption must reduce to achieve climate targets.’

Currently, around 23% of Edinburgh’s consumption-based footprint is linked to food and diet, 12% of which comes fro meat. Therefore, a shift to more plant-based diets would have a significant impact on this output, a notion supported by a 2019 C40 Network study which showed that the biggest opportunity for emissions savings in urban centres comes in the form of reducing meat consumption.  

‘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,’ said Nicola Harris, communications director at Plant Based Treaty.

‘Everyone can join the movement by asking their local councillors to support the Plant Based Treaty and put forward a motion for their town, city or county to endorse. By developing plant-based food strategies to address consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions we can make great inroads in delivering the emissions cuts needed this decade to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown,’ she continued. 

Earlier this month, a US study found that as sulfur emissions from farming dropped due to tighter regulations designed to improve air pollution, the use of sulphur fertilisers increased in a bid to maintain food production levels. Find out more about the research here.

Image: Yves Alarie



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1 year ago

Food emissions? Why not just say from farming practices, livestock – and deforestation? If meat and dairy consumption have to come down to help with CO2 reduction, and we switch to more plant-based food, will that mean more pesticides and more fertiliser on our cereal crops, and fruit and veg?

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