In response to the increasingly severe climate crisis, the West Sussex town of Haywards Heath has become the first European signatory of the Plant Based Treaty.
The Plant Based Treaty was first launched in 2021 as a companion to the Paris Agreement. The grassroots movement was designed to put food systems at the forefront of action against climate change.
Modelled on the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Plant Based Treaty aims to halt the widespread degradation of critical ecosystems caused by animal agriculture and to promote a shift to what organisers believe to be healthier, more sustainable plant-based diets.
The treaty is formed of three demands. The first is aimed at stopping the problem of climate change increasing and stipulates that no new animal agriculture or associated activity should be undertaken. As well as halting land use changes, this demand also requires no new slaughterhouses to be built and no conversion of any land for animal feed production.
The second demand is designed to eliminate the driving forces behind the problem, by promoting plant-based foods and helping people to actively transition away from the current animal-based food system.
Finally, the third demand is focused on actively healing the damage done by the current food system and mitigating the effects of climate change where possible. Requirements include land reforestationon land and ocean repopulation, as well as moving towards so-called green cities and towns and strengthening food justice so everyone has access to safe, nutritious food.
Though Haywards Heath is the first signatory in Europe, the Plant Based Treaty has already attracted support elsewhere in the world. There are currently 17 municipal governments which are committed, including Boynton Beach in Florida and Rosario in Argentina.
Moreover, the treaty has the support of IPCC scientists, 800 non-governmental organisations, five Nobel laureates, 700 businesses and a number of high-profile activists like George Monbiot and Paul and Stella McCartney.
Alongside its adoption of the treaty, Haywards Heath has already taken steps to minimise its environmental impact. In January, the town supported the Veganuary 2022 campaign, and it has also worked to educate people on the benefits of reducing food waste and eating plant-based.
It will also soon be launching several other initiatives. This includes an Education and Business Environmental Awards Scheme, which aims to engage the local community, environmental groups, and Parish councils.
Dr Richard Nicholson, a Green Councillor for Haywards Heath, said: “The Climate Crisis is no longer a distant future threat but an existential crisis that is upon us in 2022.
“The Southeast of England has endured the highest ever summer temperatures in history and people’s properties have been destroyed by fire and flood. We cannot wait for governments – we must all act immediately – and moving to a plant-based diet is the most impactful thing any individual can do to help address the grave situation we face.
“I’d encourage all Town, District, County and Metro councils to sign the Plant Based Treaty immediately.”
It is hoped that Haywards Heath’s endorsement of the Plant Based Treaty will have a domino effect on towns and cities across the UK.
According to the team behind the treaty, some 100 councillors from almost 60 towns and cities have individually signed on. It adds that support is generally cross-party, with signatories from Labour, the Tories, the Green Party and Liberal Democrats.