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Bristol City Council Urged To Transition To 100% Plant-Based Catering

Plant-Based Councils campaigner Richard Pawley presenting his question to the Council. Photo: Bristol City Council (screenshot)

  • At Bristol City Council’s most recent Full Council meeting, two local residents and campaigners with Plant-Based Councils, Richard Pawley and Agnes Sales, voiced the concerns of fellow Bristol residents on the topic of the climate crisis [1]. 

  • Pawley urged the council to switch to 100% plant-based catering in their own internal meetings and events in order to reach the council’s goals of being carbon neutral by 2030 [2]. 

  • Sales brought into question the council’s decision not to include a ban on high-carbon food advertising as part of the council’s advertising policy [2]. 

  • Multiple councils around the UK have introduced fully plant-based catering in order to lower their emissions output [3]. Bristol City Council is yet to pass a motion which could lower emissions via their catering. 

On Tuesday 12/03/24, Richard Pawley asked: “The Bristol Good Food 2030 Framework rightly points out that limited funding presents a major constraint for enabling Bristol’s food system to align with the Council’s stated goal of having the city become carbon neutral by 2030. Other councils that have previously transitioned to 100% plant based catering have noted that there are no financial implications for this transition on council budgets.

With all this in mind, my question is will you recognise that a transition to plant-based catering is an obvious move for reducing the climate impact of the city’s food in a context of budgetary constraint, and that failing to do so will make achieving carbon neutrality in the city increasingly difficult?” [2]

Mayor Marvin Rees responded by saying that Pawley’s opinion is the view of one person, and that the council will not change policy for one person. However, according to the Bristol Quality of Life survey 2022/23, 87% of people in Bristol are concerned about the impacts of climate change [4]. 

Plant-Based Councils campaigner Agnes Sales presents her question to the Council in March. Photo: Bristol City Council (screenshot)

Fellow Bristol resident and Plant-Based Councils supporter, Agnes Sales, also addressed the council’s lack of climate action at the meeting. She stated that: “The Advertised Emissions report that was launched at COP26 in 2021 found that advertising adds on average an extra 28% to the annual carbon footprint of every single person in the UK. The Council has a stated goal that by 2030 people in Bristol will consume carbon neutral food and drink. If meat and dairy products are known to have such a high carbon footprint, why are adverts for these products not included within this policy?” [2]

Bristol introduced a new advertising policy in 2021, with intentions to reduce the amount of harmful advertising reaching residents [5]. Presently, the policy includes a ban on the advertisement of alcohol, gambling, tobacco products, and food and drink with high fat/salt/sugar content (on council-owned property) [6].

The Mayor’s response to Sales’ question was that there is no legal definition of a high-carbon product, so it cannot be featured in the policy enacted by the council. He then invited Sales to suggest a way to measure high carbon products. Many companies have already done the research into assessing the carbon output of different food types. One such company, My Emissions, has a website function which allows users to check the carbon emissions of typical servings of different foods [7]. 

In terms of advertisement regulation, Bristol Council’s policy is notably weak in comparison to other cities, namely Grenoble in France, which removed a total of 326 billboards as the result of a strong policy led by the Mayor Eric Piolle in 2015 [8].

Plant-Based Councils, an Animal Rising campaign, is a national initiative of local residents who are pushing for their councils to adopt 100% plant-based catering [1]. The group claims that local authorities have a responsibility to follow the current scientific consensus, which acknowledges the environmental, health and cost benefits of plant-based meals over those containing meat and dairy. The campaign is active in over 45 councils, with the group encouraging interested residents to sign up to run a local campaign.


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[1] The Plant-Based Councils campaign aims to address the climate emergency, starting with the food on our plates; working with UK councils to encourage the switch from emission-heavy food to plant-based options which are better for our health, the planet, and reducing the impact of the cost of living crisis.

[2] Bristol City Council, meeting of full council, 12th March 2024: agenda, public forum document, recording of Pawley's question, recording of Sales' question.  

[3] Councils go vegan - in the UK and worldwide:

[5] Bristol Council bans adverts for junk food, alcohol and gambling:

[6] Bristol’s Advertising and Sponsorship Policy:

[7] My Emissions - Food carbon footprint calculator: 

[8] Energy Cities: No more advertising boards in public spaces:

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