Norwich City Council Calls for UK Government to Support Global Plant Based Treaty to Combat Climate Crisis
The Council bolsters food security by promoting new community gardens and improving access to plant-based foods in council spaces, including markets, events and leisure centers.
Media Contacts & Interview Requests:
- Council debate and vote (2.37hr): https://www.youtube.com/live/OG11OUge4kA?feature=share&t=9420
Norwich, 18 March 2023. At a full council meeting held on Tuesday, 14th March, Norwich City Council demonstrated their environmental commitments by acknowledging the substantial environmental impact of meat and dairy production on climate breakdown, land use change and public health crises and calling on the UK government to enter a global Plant Based Treaty.
The motion, which was introduced by Councillor Alex Catt and seconded by Councillor Jamie Osborn from the Green Party states:
“Producing a kilo of beef creates, on average, 12 times more CO2 than a kilo of tofu or other soya-based proteins. Meanwhile, producing a litre of dairy milk uses, on average, at least four times as much land as producing a litre of plant milk… As well as a smaller carbon footprint, eating more plant-based foods also reduces the land footprint of our diets and would improve UK food security and self-sufficiency, thereby making our diets more local.”
The council will now write to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs supporting the UK’s endorsement of the Plant Based Treaty as a companion to the Paris Agreement. They will also write to Norfolk County Council to request a carbon impact assessment of meat and dairy industries across the county and ask what steps are being taken to reduce this in line with the target to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
During the lively 40-minute council debate, Councillor Catt 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… 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.”
The motion, which Labour Councillor Oliver amended, included measures to improve accessibility and availability of plant-based food across the city, including:
- Ensuring all food and drink provided at meetings and events hosted by the city council include plant-based food options, and where possible, is provided by a local caterer paying the Real Living Wage and sourcing sustainable local ingredients.
- Using Norwich City Council civic events to promote and showcase plant-based food and drink options, information displays about the climate and health benefits and relative cost of different protein/food sources and informing people about how to achieve a balanced plant-based diet.
- Ensuring events on City Council open spaces include environmentally friendly plant-based options secured through the use of terms and conditions of hire.
- When re-tendering for suppliers for council-run cafes, kiosks or leisure centres, specify that vegetable/legume-rich plant-based options are available.
- Working with community groups across the city to continue to promote the establishment of new and appropriate community gardens as part of the biodiversity strategy.
- Recognising Norwich as a city with businesses leading the way in the provision of plant-based foods and drinks by engaging with Norwich BID and the Norwich Market Traders’ Association to investigate the opportunities to promote the benefits of plant-based foods, appropriately and respectfully give people information about the best ways to achieve a balanced plant-based diet.
Councillor Alex Catt, said, “The climate and ecological crisis is one which will only ever be resolved by taking action at every level of government. While governments can take more significant action, local councils have a crucial part to play in improving the accessibility of plant-based food and drink options. While the uptake of vegan diets have increased in recent years, we need systemic change to make this diet easy to access for all so that we can all make better choices for the planet. Any council that has declared a climate emergency must be matching this with action and endorsing the Plant Based Treaty is key when emissions linked to food outweigh those from many other sectors.”
Councillor Jamie Osborn, said, “Endorsing the Plant-Based Treaty is a sign that councils take behaviour change seriously. It is the actions of institutions, including local governments at all levels, that play the biggest role in shaping the choice environment. Governments can change the choice environment “upstream” – by incentivising businesses to align with net zero and social goals. They can also change the environment “midstream”, by making environmentally-friendly options the default, by encouraging social norms and the visibility of pro-environmental behaviours, and by making it easy to make the right choices. Individual behaviour change, by contrast, only has “downstream” effects – it is shaped by and driven by the prior changes in the choice environment, or, to use the metaphor, the direction that society is flowing in. The Plant-Based Treaty changes the direction of the flow and can help carry everyone along to a more sustainable future.”
Nicola Harris, Plant Based Treaty communications director, said, “It is promising to see the council commit to providing increased accessibility to plant-based foods through council-run cafes, kiosks, leisure centres and community gardens. Institutions have a key role in shifting the nation towards climate-friendly plant-based diets. Momentum for plant-based food solutions to the climate emergency is growing, with Norwich becoming the third council to call on the UK government to endorse the Plant Based Treaty.”
The Plant Based Treaty is modelled on the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty and inspired by treaties that have addressed the threats of ozone layer depletion and nuclear weapons. Since its launch in August 2021, the initiative has received support from 75,000 individual endorsers, 5 Nobel laureates, IPCC scientists, more than 1000 NGOs and community groups and 1000 businesses, including Ecotricity, Linda McCartney Foods, Oceanic Preservation Society, Environmental Alliance Project, VIVA!, BOSH!, Animal Rebellion, and chapters of Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Extinction Rebellion.
The Plant Based Treaty has secured high-profile endorsements from celebrities, including Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney, who issued a written statement calling for politicians to support the Plant-Based Treaty. They said: “We believe in justice for animals, the environment and people. That’s why we support the Plant Based Treaty and urge individuals and governments to sign it.”