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Edinburgh becomes first European capital to endorse the Plant Based Treaty

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4 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
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The City of Edinburgh Council has backed the Plant Based Treaty, making it the first city in Scotland and European capital to support the initiative which aims to reduce food-related GHG emissions from animal agriculture.

First launched in 2021 to accompany the Paris Agreement, the treaty is currently endorsed by 20 municipal governments around the world, including Haywards Heath in West Sussex and Los Angeles.

In March 2022, Green Councillor Steve Burgess introduced the Treaty during a Full Council Meeting, where councillors voted to create an impact assessment to determine the implications of its endorsement.

Burgess said in a statement: “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.”

The impact assessment report was published on Friday 13 January and was presented yesterday at the Policy and Sustainability Committee. It recognises 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,” and acknowledges “the science is clear, meat and dairy consumption must reduce to achieve climate targets.”

During the committee meeting, the Green Group tabled a number of amendments to the report. The amendments passed with 12 votes to 5, backed by the Greens, Labour and Scottish National Party:

– Endorsement of the Plant Based Treaty
– Requesting that the Council Leader writes to the First Minister and relevant Cabinet Secretary / Ministers outlining that the Council has endorsed the Treaty, and encouraging the Scottish Government to do so too
– Requesting an action plan and timescale for implementing possible changes to Council activities following the endorsement of the treaty.

According to the report, food and diet make up 23% of the city’s consumption-based footprint, with 12% of emissions coming from eating meat. Encouraging its residents to adopt plant-based diets, it says, would help to “significantly reduce the city’s consumption-based emissions.”

Burgess added: “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.”

In light of Edinburgh’s decision, climate campaigners are now asking other towns and cities to follow suit to develop a council-led movement across the country that calls for the adoption of healthier and more sustainable meat-free diets.

More than 240 Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats and Green Party councillors from almost 600 towns and cities across the UK have already individually signed the treaty.

Some 20 UK Parliament MPs have also signed the Early Day Motion 434, which welcomes the Plant Based Treaty and asks for the Government to act as “a world leader in recognising the negative impact of industrial animal agriculture on climate change and commit to developing a global strategy to transition towards more sustainable plant-based food systems.”

Ben Parker, Co-Convenor of the Green group of Councillors in the City of Edinburgh Council said in a statement, “To sign the treaty is to show that we take our climate commitments seriously, and recognise the science behind the climate emergency – that is, to know that food systems are key drivers of emissions, and that plant-based foods must figure as part of the solution to tackling climate change.

“I’m proud that the City of Edinburgh Council is showing leadership in this space and I look forward to seeing the Council Leader now write to the First Minister to encourage the Scottish Government to follow suit in endorsing the treaty. Furthermore, I hope that other Councils in Scotland – and the rest of the UK – can follow our lead on this too.

“When it comes to the climate emergency, we must leave no stone unturned. We need to see a radical and wholescale shift in our approach to all manner of policies, actions and activities – crucially, this must include food systems, and that’s why I’m so pleased to see the Council sign the treaty today.”

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