Edinburgh becomes first European capital to endorse Plant Based Treaty 

February 8, 2023

The city of Edinburgh has welcomed a Plant Based Treaty, with big implications for Scotland and the rest of Europe.

The City of Edinburgh Council recently endorsed the Plant Based Treaty, an initiative with support from over 1,000 NGOs and community groups, as well as 1,000 businesses and celebrities including Paul McCartney. The treaty centres around combatting food-related emissions that are produced by animal agriculture along with deforestation, and has also received support from 20 municipal governments from across the globe, including Los Angeles. 

Background of the Plant Based Treaty 

The Plant Based Treaty was first introduced to Scotland in March 2022 by Green Councillor Steve Burgess. 

“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,” Mr. Burgess said.

An impact assessment report of the Plant Based Treaty was produced in January 2023, noting 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.” 

Findings from the report suggest that 23% of Edinburgh’s consumption based carbon footprint originates from the food industry, and that 12% of these emissions originate from meat consumption. 

The report claims that “a shift to plant-based diets would therefore significantly reduce the city’s consumption-based emissions.”

“Edinburgh has lived up to its reputation as a global climate leader....” said Nicola Harris, Communications Director at Plant Based Treaty. 
“Edinburgh has lived up to its reputation as a global climate leader….” said Nicola Harris, Communications Director at Plant Based Treaty. 

What are the core initiatives of the Plant Based Treaty

Those responsible for the treaty have outlined three core demands: relinquish, redirect and restore. 

The first, relinquish, centres around “stop[ping] the problem increasing,” and suggestions include not expanding existing farms and no further clearing of forests for animal farming. 

The second demand, redirect, is intended to “eliminate the driving forces behind the problem,” with the “promotion of plant-based foods and actively transition away from animal-based food systems to plant-based systems.” Some of the initiatives include introducing a meat tax (including fish), with proceeds going towards the restoration of land that has been used for animal agriculture, and subsiding fruits and vegetables to make them more widely-accessible. 

The third demand, restore, has been described by the Treaty as “actively healing the problem while building resilience and mitigating climate change.” Initiatives include making subsidies available for farmers and landowners who engage in “good land stewardship.”

What does the Plant Based Treaty mean for Edinburgh, Scotland and Europe? 

With support from the Green, Labour and Scottish National Party, the Treaty was endorsed this year, with Ben Parker Co-Convenor of the Green group of Councillors in the City of Edinburgh Council saying “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.”

“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,” said Nicola Harris, Communications Director at Plant Based Treaty. 

“Promoting plant-based food across Edinburgh will help residents make informed choices that are better for the planet, personal health and animal protection.” 

Following Edinburgh’s endorsement, climate campaigners have asked other towns and cities to follow suit and create a major shift towards adopting plant-based diets.

“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,” Ms. Harris said.

The treaty has reportedly been signed by over 240 councillors from approximately 60 cities and towns across the United Kingdom. 

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