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Campaigners call on Bristol City Council to debate a motion on plant-based solutions to the climate

Plant-Based Councils campaigners outside Bristol City Council Photo credit: Plant-Based Councils

  • On 12/09/23 at the Full Council of Bristol City Council, a local resident and supporter of the Plant-Based Councils campaign [1] urged the council to debate the plant-based solutions motion which was tabled a year ago

  • A group of 10 local campaigners attended the council meeting with placards

  • Similar questions were asked at councils in Birmingham and Bournemouth on the same day

  • The campaigners are urging Bristol to follow the lead of city councils such as Exeter, Oxford, Cambridge and Norwich, as well as Oxfordshire County Council, which have all voted to promote the benefits of plant-based eating.

Bristol resident, Michaela Andrews, attended a full council meeting of Bristol City Council on Tuesday 12/09/23 [2], to urge the council to debate a motion on plant-based solutions to the climate crisis.

Speaking to the Full Council, Miss Andrews, a special needs teaching assistant from Bristol, said:

“I asked a question at council a year ago. After that, motions on plant-based solutions were tabled by 3 political groups, but they are not being prioritised & haven't been heard. Since these motions have been waiting for this council's attention, we’ve seen devastating wildfires, extreme heat and mass migrations across the world driven by global heating.”

“We know that meat and dairy produce many times more greenhouse gas emissions than plant foods. The science is unequivocal. Yet we currently eat twice the global average of meat. Public organisations must step up and show leadership to change this.”

After Miss Andrews spoke, around ten campaigners from Plant-Based Councils peacefully remained standing with placards reading ‘Debate the Plant-Based Motion’, ‘Internal Council Catering should be Plant-Based’ and ‘Plant-Based Food System is backed by Climate Science’. At the end of the public forum, the Deputy Lord Mayor Paula O’Rourke thanked the campaigners for following the democratic process and standing in silence for the duration.

Plant-Based Councils campaigners inside the council chamber Photo: Bristol City Council (screenshot)

In July this year, a new study was published by researchers from Oxford University [3] which found that a plant-based diet has just 30% of the environmental impact of a diet high in meat, with a high-meat diet producing 4 times the amount of greenhouse gases, requiring 4 times as much land, and double the amount of water of a plant-based diet.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) both highlight plant-based diets as critical in mitigating global heating.

The Government-commissioned National Food Strategy (2021), led by Henry Dimbleby [4], recommended that to improve the health and sustainability of our food system a new Reference Diet should be developed, focusing on wholegrains, fruit, vegetables and pulses and that catering provided within the public sector should follow this.

Miss Andrews added:

“This Council has declared a Climate Emergency and should be leading the way on this. Many other councils have voted for fully plant-based internal catering, to increase plant-based food options at all external sites, and to promote plant-based eating to residents. I would like to know when Bristol City Council will finally give this issue the attention it urgently deserves and debate the motion.”

In December last year, Exeter City Council [5] voted to serve only plant-based foods at council meetings and events. Exeter City Council also plans to introduce more plant-based options onto menus at council-run external sites such as leisure centres, and to showcase plant-based foods at external events. A similar motion carried at Oxford City Council [6] earlier this year asked the council to work with local farmers to support their move to create more plant-based produce, and establish a plant-based free food service, to help tackle the cost of living crisis. This followed a motion at Oxfordshire County Council in 2021.

Speaking after the meeting, Miss Andrews said:

“These motions have been waiting for a whole year - the extreme weather we’ve seen across the world this year is a stark reminder that we cannot delay, Bristol Council must prioritise this issue”.

A spokesperson from Plant-Based Councils said:

“As one of the most progressive cities in the UK, and the first city to declare a Climate Emergency, we hope that Bristol will quickly catch up. Several Bristol councillors have tabled excellent motions so we hope these will be prioritised by the whole council soon. Councils across the UK are realising that making a clear commitment to plant-based eating is the natural and necessary step after a Climate Emergency declaration - this is not an issue that can wait”.

The Plant-Based Councils campaign believes that local authorities have an opportunity and a duty to lead the way in normalising plant-based eating, which is necessary if we are to tackle the climate and ecological emergencies. Councils can reduce their own emissions by procuring more plant-based foods, and can address both the health and cost-of-living crises by encouraging residents to adopt healthier and cheaper ways of eating.

On the same day, questions were also asked by Plant-Based Councils campaigners at Birmingham City Council [7] and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council [8]. In Birmingham, a retired GP and an NHS Gastroenterologist asked councillors to agree to meet with them to learn more about the health and sustainability impact of diet choices.

Last week, 650 academics [9] called on British universities to adopt 100% plant-based catering to fight the climate emergency. Fifteen academics from the University of Bristol are amongst the signatories of the Open Letter to university Vice Chancellors.


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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 councils across the UK to encourage them to lead the way in the switch from emission heavy foods to plant-based ones that are better for health, our planet and reducing the impact from the cost of living crisis.

[2] Bristol City Council, meeting of Full Council 12th Sept 2023: agenda, public forum document and recording

[3] Study into environmental impact of various diets, Oxford University, published July 2023

[4] Review of National Food Strategy

[5] Exeter City Council votes to serve 100% plant-based food at catered meetings

[6] Motion on Plant-Based Food and Sustainable Farming, Oxford City Council

[7] Birmingham Full Council meeting 12th September 2023

[8] BCP Full Council meeting 12th September 2023

[9] Open Letter to University Vice Chancellors signed by 650 academics

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