The City of Edinburgh Council has endorsed the Plant Based Treaty, a global initiative that aims to “halt the widespread degradation of critical ecosystems caused by animal agriculture”.

The treaty is backed 20 governments worldwide, including Los Angeles and Haywards Heath, however Edinburgh is the first city in Scotland to join.

Green councillor, Steve Burgess, first introduced the Plant Based Treaty to a full council meeting in March of 2022, where councillors unanimously voted to produce an impact assessment on consequences of endorsing the treaty.

At the time, Burgess said: “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.

“Plant-based proteins have a much lower carbon footprint than meat and dairy.

“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.”

Following the publication of the impact assessment report on January 13, 2023, it was presented at the Policy and Sustainability Committee.

The report said 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”.

It states that, overall, “the science is clear, meat and dairy consumption must reduce to achieve climate targets.”

Climate commitments

Ben Parker, co-convenor of the Green group of councillors in the City of Edinburgh Council, said the signing of the treaty will show that Edinburgh takes its climate commitments seriously and recognises “the science behind the climate emergency”.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Nicola Harris, the communications director at Plant Based Treaty, said Edinburgh has now lived up to its reputation as a “global climate leader” by acknowledging the “critical need to reduce greenhouse gas emission from the food system to achieve climate targets”.

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

“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.

“By developing plant-based food strategies to address consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions we can make great inroads in delivering the emissions cuts needed this decade to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown.”