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Campaigners Call on Bristol City Council to Debate Plant-Based Solutions to the Climate Crisis



  • At the 12/12/23 full-council meeting, two Bristol residents and supporters of the Plant-Based Councils campaign [1] urged Bristol City Council to prioritise debating a plant-based motion to address the climate crisis as a matter of urgency, in order to truly reflect the “climate emergency” situation the Council has declared. 

  • A group of local residents attended the council meeting with a banner and placards.

  • 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, all of which have voted to promote the benefits of plant-based eating.


Bristol resident Jack Slater attended a full Bristol City Council meeting on Tuesday 12/12/23 [2] to urge the Council to develop, debate and implement a motion offering plant-based solutions to the climate crisis as a matter of urgency. Speaking to the full council, Jack Slater, a librarian from Bristol, said:


“My question is directed to councillor Bennett as the portfolio holder for climate. All of the existing food strategy documents that Bristol City Council have produced recognise that animal products are amongst the most environmentally damaging foodstuffs, and it is therefore important for consumption of these products to be significantly reduced if the Council is to achieve its stated goal of “carbon neutral food and drink” consumption in the city by 2030.


It would not be unfair to say that, in this respect, existing strategies do not meet this ambition. They have only very limited plans for meat and dairy reduction, and lack a serious commitment to the promotion of plant based food.


So my question is: in light of the importance of food systems in combating the climate crisis as recognised by the recent COP 28 climate meeting, can you commit to developing, debating, and implementing a plant-based motion as a matter of urgency?” 


Another Bristol resident, Jenny Harrison, also asked a question at the meeting. She asked if the Labour Party could prioritise a meeting with the Greens in order to develop a stronger cross-party motion that can more appropriately address the emergency situation we’re in while also having a greater chance of being implemented more effectively by involving the leading party.


After Ms Harrison spoke, five residents remained standing peacefully with a banner and placards reading, ‘Internal council catering should be plant-based’ and ‘Plant-based food systems are backed by climate science’. 




More Plant-Based Councils campaigners also staged a similar protest at the last Full Council meeting on 12/09/23 [3]. Afterwards, Deputy Lord Mayor Paula O’Rourke thanked the campaigners for following the democratic process by standing silently for the duration.





In July this year, a new study was published by Oxford University researchers [3] which found that a plant-based diet has 70% less environmental impact than a high-meat diet; a high-meat diet produces four-times the amount of greenhouse gases, requires four-times as much land, and double the amount of water. 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] recommends that, in order to improve the health and sustainability of our food system, a new reference diet should be developed - focused on wholegrains, fruit, vegetables and pulses - and that public-sector catering should follow this diet. 


In December last year, Exeter City Council [5] voted to serve exclusively plant-based food at their council meetings and events. They also plan to add more plant-based options to menus at council-run external sites, such as leisure centres, and to showcase plant-based food at external events. A similar motion, carried at Oxford City Council [6] earlier this year, asked the council to liaise with local farmers to support their transition to creating more plant-based produce, and to establish a plant-based free food service in order to help tackle the cost of living crisis. Speaking after the meeting, Ms Harrison 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 City 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 excellent motions were submitted some time ago and 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”.  


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.



ENDS.


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For more information or further comments, please contact info@plantbasedcouncils.org 


NOTES TO EDITORS:


[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 December 2023: agenda, public forum document, recording of first question and recording of second question 


[3] Bristol City Council, meeting of full council, 12th Sept 2023: agenda, public forum document and recording


[4] Study into the environmental impact of various diets, Oxford University, published July 2023: https://www.nature.com/articles/s43016-023-00795-w


[5] Review of National Food Strategy: https://www.nationalfoodstrategy.org/


[6]  Exeter City Council votes to serve 100% plant-based food at catered meetings: https://news.exeter.gov.uk/council-pledges-to-raise-awareness-of-the-benefits-of-plant-based-food/


[7]   Motion on plant-based food and sustainable farming, Oxford City Council:  https://mycouncil.oxford.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=35043


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