Edinburgh and Stockholm could rewild 571,000 hectares of land by adopting plant-based diets, says Oxford academic Dr. Joseph Poore
The transition could lead to a combined reduction of 4.6 million tonnes of CO2eq emissions, equivalent to taking 1.5 million cars off the road
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April 13, 2023: During yesterday’s webinar hosted by Plant Based Treaty and Vegoforum, Dr Joseph Poore, Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Food Sustainability Analytics at Oxford University, revealed new eye-opening calculations demonstrating the environmental benefits of the residents of Edinburgh and Stockholm adopting a vegan lifestyle.
What if Edinburgh and Stockholm went vegan?
Should Edinburgh embrace plant-based diets, a massive 232,000 hectares of land could be rewilded, an area the size of the Lake District National Park; emissions savings would be equivalent to removing 532,000 cars from the streets. If Stockholm were to follow suit, an additional 339,000 hectares of land could be rewilded, an area the size of Sarek National Park, and the emissions reduction would match taking 935,000 cars off the road.
Nicola Harris, communications director, for Plant Based Treaty said, “What Joseph Poore has demonstrated is if Edinburgh fully embraced vegan diets, we could rewild land almost ten times larger than the city itself, enabling us to draw down carbon from the atmosphere and enhance biodiversity.” On January 18, 2023, Edinburgh became the first European capital to endorse the Plant Based Treaty, backed by 21 municipal governments worldwide, including Los Angeles.
Karin Wanngård, the vegan Mayor of Stockholm, who introduced the webinar, said,
“If we keep producing and eating the food we do today, we will not reach the Paris Agreement and the world as we know it won’t be the same. Now is the time for states and cities to take a greater responsibility for the food people consume. In our city, we have nearly 1 million inhabitants, the schools, pre-schools and elderly homes of Stockholm are taking a leap towards organic plant-based and locally produced food.”
“It’s encouraging that politicians are realising the enormous environmental impact of animal agriculture and the urgent need for political measures to combat the problem”, says Per-Anders Jande, Chair of Swedish Food and Environment Information and Vegoforum organiser.
More than 1,000 people registered for the webinar including councillors from more than 35 town and city councils in the UK.
Dr Joseph Poore said, “Plant Based Treaty has focused on getting cities to sign up, which is a really exciting and innovative idea. We have to take carbon dioxide out of the air. We need diet change to free up and liberate large amounts of land for rewilding; both natural vegetation growth, rewilding to bring species back but also for negative emissions. There are very large benefits to cities adopting plant-based diets, it’s a really great initiative the Plant Based Treaty is doing and I think it’s essential to get more cities signed up and get those cities delivering on what they’ve committed to.”
Dr Joseph Poore was a contributing author of the IPCC 6th Assessment Working Group III report. His 2018 study with Thomas Nemecek, Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers featured heavily throughout the report.
One thing that the IPCC highlighted in their report was that shifting to plant-based diets could reduce land use by 3.1 billion ha, decrease food-related GHG emissions by 6.5 GtCO2-eq yr–1, acidification by 50%, eutrophication by 49%, and freshwater withdrawals by 19%.
Every person that adopts a vegan diet could spare 4,700m2 of land, which would provide habitats for five birds, 15 mammals, 20 reptiles, 100 amphibians and absorb 150 tonnes of carbon dioxide into plants and soil.
In the webinar, Joseph Poore noted that we need to take individual action on all fronts to limit global temperatures to 1.5-2C warming, and the biggest thing an individual can do is adopt a vegan diet. He demonstrated that greenhouse gas emissions saved per person by recycling is 0.2 tonnes CO2eq, and avoiding a transatlantic flight saves 1.7 tonnes CO2eq; however, adopting a vegan diet would bring the biggest savings of 2.9 tonnes CO2eq.