After the success of Meat Free Monday in its schools, Edinburgh has become the first capital city in Europe to endorse the Plant Based Treaty – and is now urging the Scottish government to follow suit.
The grassroots initiative was launched in 2021 to help countries meet their net zero commitments under the Paris Agreement by encouraging a shift to planet-friendly food. So far 19 other towns and cities around the world have joined up, including Los Angeles, Haywards Heath in the UK, Didim in Turkey, and several municipalities in India. MFM founders Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney threw their weight behind it from the start.
“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,” said Steve Burgess, the Green Party councillor who first put the proposal before Edinburgh council last year. “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.”
As well as getting plant-based food into schools, hospitals, prisons and other state-funded canteens, Edinburgh has signed up to the initiative’s goal of stopping the damage being done to the planet by livestock farming and reversing the worst effects of climate change. The hope is that as the number of endorsements increases, governments will come under increasing pressure to sign an international agreement on plant-based food.
After a unanimous vote to explore the implications of joining the initiative, an impact assessment report by Edinburgh council found almost a quarter (23 per cent) of the city’s consumption-related carbon footprint is down to food and diet, and meat eating accounts for 12 per cent of that total. The report agreed that “diets high in plant protein and low in meat and dairy make for lower greenhouse gas emissions” and concluded: “A shift to plant-based diets would … significantly reduce the city’s consumption-based emissions.”
Amendments to the report, introduced by the Greens and agreed upon by a majority on the council, included endorsing the Plant Based Treaty and requesting that the council leader write to the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to encourage the government in Holyrood to add its endorsement.
Burgess added: “Edinburgh council itself now 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.”
Cammy Day, the council’s leader, said Edinburgh’s endorsement of the Plant Based Treaty was an expression of support “for a treaty to be negotiated at a global level as a companion to the Paris Agreement on climate.”