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Local resident asks Derby City Council to act on climate emergency by promoting plant-based food


  • On 20/9/23 at the Full Council of Derby City Council, a local resident and supporter of the Plant-Based Councils Campaign [1] asked the council to take action on food policy and to meet with them to discuss how plant-based food should be promoted to help tackle the climate emergency.

  • James Lampert, an Occupational Therapist, said that “The Council’s Climate Change Action Plan has an objective to achieve net zero by 2035. However, this awareness needs to include every aspect of council activities, including the provision of food, which is currently omitted from the action plan.”

  • This question follows councils elsewhere passing motions committing to plant-based catering, such as Oxfordshire, Cambridge City and Exeter City.


Derby resident James Lampert attended a full council meeting for Derby City Council on Wednesday 20/9/23 [2], to ask the council to lead by example and ensure any catering provided at internal council events is plant-based. He was requesting that Derby City Council follows the lead of other councils around the country by promoting healthy plant-based eating as the logical and necessary next step after having declared a climate emergency.


James Lampert submitted a written question in advance of the meeting, and extracts include:

“There have been substantial evidence-based recommendations calling for a move away from meat and dairy. The review of the National Food Strategy, led by Henry Dimbleby in 2021, recommended a reduction in meat and dairy of 30% within ten years, and that food provided in the public sector should be plant-based by default. If we are to achieve even this modest target, we need public organisations to lead the way. The Government failed to implement these recommendations and is now facing a legal challenge with lawyers arguing that its failure to adopt measures to reduce meat and dairy production and consumption is unlawful. A new Oxford University study published in July 2023 shows that the environmental impact of a meat-diet is far higher than one which is plant-based.
We are currently in a cost-of-living crisis. Meat and dairy products are almost always the most expensive part of a meal – whole food plant-based meals are considerably cheaper. By doing the right thing for the planet, and promoting eating for good health, the council can also save money by serving more plant-based foods. We can and must move away from meat and dairy, towards climate-friendly eating, and I believe councils can lead the way with this.
Therefore, given the Climate and Ecological Emergency and Derby’s stated aim to reduce their emissions, will Derby City Council ensure that all food and drink provided at internal events is plant-based by default, as other councils have done? Even if this only applies to refreshments at a very small number of events per year, it will be a small step that sends a powerful message.
This will be a positive and forward-thinking step, bringing our food policy into line with other climate-aware policies. Thank you.”

Councillor Carmel Swan, Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Transport and Sustainability, responded to the question in advance of the meeting, saying:

“Thank you for the question and the research you have undertaken about the positive environmental impact of plant based eating.
I am happy to work via the Climate Action Plan to ensure colleagues are encouraged to use catering services with the lowest possible environmental impact to include plant based options.”

Speaking in the meeting, Mr Lampert said [3]:

“Thank you very much to Councillor Swan for her positive response…
… would you be prepared to have a follow-up meeting please, to explore more about what becoming a plant-based council by default means and have a discussion about how this can really be brought to life through the Climate Action Plan?”

Councillor Swan agreed to a follow-up meeting with Mr Lampert to take the matter further.


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 emergency. 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.


Similar questions have been asked of other councils across the UK and motions have been carried by progressive councils such as Exeter City Council [4] which, in December last year, 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.


Earlier this month, 650 academics [5] called on British universities to adopt 100% plant-based catering to fight the climate emergency. At least one academic from the University of Derby was amongst the signatories of the Open Letter to university Vice Chancellors.


ENDS.


Word count: 811

For more information or further comments, please contact plantbasedcouncils@gmail.com


NOTES TO EDITORS:


[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. https://twitter.com/PBCouncils


[2] Derby Full Council meeting 20th September 2023 (Question E, page 15)


[3] Council - 20-Sept-2023 relevant section is from 21:12


[4] 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/


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