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UK cities sign up for a plant-based revolution

A growing number of councils are stepping up to the vegetable-heavy plate with commitments to encourage greener eating

Posted : 15 May 2023

Après Norwich, le déluge? Having waited years for one British town or city to take the plant-based plunge, loads have come along at once … and the hope is that the rest of the country will soon follow suit.

Norwich city council has become the third municipality to sign up to the Plant Based Treaty, an initiative to help countries meet their food-related net zero targets, after Edinburgh in February and Haywards Heath in July last year. Haywards Heath was the first town in Europe and Edinburgh the first capital city to join.

Councillors in Exeter, meanwhile, have done the same in all but name, backing a motion calling on the council to help raise awareness of the benefits of plant-based food. It has pledged that by the time of its annual meeting this week, all of the food served internally will be vegan, and all council-run external sites, including leisure centres and cafes, offer plant-based options. Oxford and Cambridge are also indulging their rivalrous natures with a race to see whose council can be quickest to eat greener.

The Norwich motion was introduced by Green Party councillor Alex Catt, who said: “We can’t sit back and ignore the huge part that food systems play and the urgent need for institutional changes to eliminate the substantial contribution that food production plays in climate change and global deforestation.”

He added: “Agriculture, forestry and land use contribute a much higher percentage of global emissions than all of transport combined. Transport may be a sector that receives a lot of attention, but the food we eat is actually the secret emitter in all of this and we are running out of time to take action.”

Duncan Wood, Exeter’s lead council for climate change, who proposed the meat free motion down in Devon, said: “As people become more aware of climate change people ask, ‘What can I do?’. There is a shared understanding in society that we should eat less meat. Climate change means we need to look at everything [we can do] to reduce carbon emissions. and consider food production, transportation and sustainability.

“What we are saying is that [people should] be aware of their choices and that eating more plant-based food is one of the actions that they can take.”

Norwich’s vote in favour not only saw it acknowledge the benefits of shifting towards a healthier diet but commit to following in Edinburgh’s footsteps with a plea to those in power. Just as supporters north of the border are asking Holyrood to sign the Plant Based Treaty, Norwich is urging the UK government to commit the country to curbing consumption of meat and dairy and eating with people and planet in mind.

As to which town or city will be next to prove it is doing its best for the local and global population, a petition to get Glastonbury town council to sign the Plant Based Treaty has hit almost 65 per cent of its target 10,000 signatures, so be sure to add your name!

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