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Plant Based Treaty
Images provided through Plant Based Treaty COP26 press kit

Agriculture

Why Didn’t COP26 Leaders Sign The Plant Based Treaty Initiative?

A list of the world’s most distinguished people are demanding that world leaders negotiate a global transition to a plant-based food system to avoid crossing “planetary tipping points.”

Eat plants, plant trees. That’s the motto of the Plant Based Treaty initiative, a mechanism that calls for a halt to the expansion of animal agriculture and for governments to incentivize a shift to a plant based economy.

Over 40 scientists have endorsed an open letter, imploring governments to adopt the Plant Based Treaty and to address systemic and damaging problems with animal agriculture. “We are urgently calling on governments to join us in acting to avert further climate catastrophe caused by animal agriculture before we irreversibly surpass planetary tipping points. It’s not too late,” the scientists — whose expertise lies across multiple domains — insist.

“We have the knowledge, tools, and solutions to change our trajectory — we just need global action to implement them.”

If global meat consumption continues on projected trajectories, agricultural emissions will take up the entire world’s carbon budget by 2050, with animal agriculture a major contributor. Food systems and animal agriculture:

  • are responsible for approximately 35% of all human-driven greenhouse gas emissions and up to a third of all global deforestation
  • are a major source of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide
  • consume limited critical resources such as land and water
  • are principal drivers of accelerating biodiversity and habitat loss, due to land conversion for animal grazing and animal feed crops
  • create large-scale ocean dead zones and a rapid loss of critical marine ecosystems, due to industrial overfishing

What is the Plant Based Treaty?

The Plant Based Treaty initiative is a grassroots campaign designed to put food systems at the forefront of combating the climate crisis. Fossil fuels and animal agriculture are the driving force behind runaway global warming as well as extensive biodiversity loss, large-scale deforestation, species extinction, water depletion, soil degradation, and ocean dead zones.  The Treaty aims to:

  • halt the widespread degradation of critical ecosystems caused by animal agriculture
  • promote a shift to more health, sustainable plant-based diets
  • to actively reverse damage done to planetary functions, ecosystem services, and biodiversity

The 3 main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide  — are at devastatingly high levels and rapidly accelerating, increasing global overheating at an alarming rate. Modeled on the popular Fossil Fuel Treaty, the Plant Based Treaty urges scientists, individuals, groups, businesses, and cities to endorse this call to action and to put pressure on national governments to negotiate an international Plant Based Treaty.

As a companion to the UNFCCC/Paris Agreement, the Plant Based Treaty is a landmark international treaty and first of its kind to put food systems at the heart of combating the climate crisis.

The Plant Based Treaty has 3 core principles:

  1. Relinquish: No land use change, ecosystem degradation or deforestation for animal agriculture
  2. Redirect: An active transition away from animal-based food systems to plant-based systems
  3. Restore: Actively restore key ecosystems, particularly restoring forests and rewilding landscapes

We can reexamine our food systems, reverse the damage, and generate food security. We have the solutions in our grasp; we just need to implement them.

Youth climate activists argued that this year’s COP26 in Glasgow “was a critical time for the future of our planet. Policy makers must show leadership and address the causes of the climate crisis. They must act with justice and equity. They must lead a green recovery.” They added their voices to the individuals, scientists, doctors, organizations, and businesses calling for a Plant Based Treaty that phases out animal agriculture and ensures a fair and just transition towards a plant-based food system.

“Around the world, scientists, government representatives, faith leaders, and now celebrity voices are calling for a halt to the expansion of animal agriculture and deforestation, a shift to a plant-based food system, and reforestation and rewilding of land,” said Anita Krajnc, Plant Based Treaty Global Campaign Coordinator. “Increasingly people are recognizing that meat, dairy and egg consumption are driving carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions, the three major greenhouse gases — now we need COP26 delegates and other leaders to acknowledge it.”

Endorsing the Plant Based Treaty Initiative: The Who’s Who

Plant Based Treaty

The McCartney family — who launched the Meat Free Monday campaign in 2009 — “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.”

They come from all walks of life: scientists and actors, activists and singers, journalists and farmers. They’re the famous names in the media and the information seekers behind closed doors. They’re people who’ve lived in ways that are in tune with the natural world and those who fight for the rights of others to live a pollution-free life. And, frustrated by world leaders who’ve omitted plant based solutions from methane and deforestation pledges at COP26, they’re speaking out for the Plant Based Treaty initiative.

  • Nobel Laureates: Roger D. Kornberg, 2006 prize in Chemistry; Eric S. Maskin, 2007 prize in Economic Sciences; Sidney Altman, 1989 prize in Chemistry
  • Climate scientists: William J. Ripple, Distinguished Professor of Ecology, Oregon State University; Peter Carter, Climate Emergency Institute, IPCC expert reviewer; Danny Harvey, IPCC Lead Author on the 4th and 5th Assessment Reports, Working Group III
  • Youth climate activists: Greta Cuthell, Genesis Butler, Bharati Singh
  • Recording artists: Paul McCartney, Moby
  • Actors: Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Peter Egan, Jerome Flynn
  • Visual artists: Mary McCartney, Stella McCartney
  • Environmental activists: George Monbiot, Ela Gandhi
  • Legislators: Michael Mansfield, Emma Lewell Buck, Caroline Lucas, John McDonnell

What Does Implementing the Plant Based Treaty Look Like on the Local Level?

If you’re wondering how to convince your community to fight the climate crisis, look no further than the City of Boynton Beach, Florida. Boynton Beach has become the first city to endorse the Plant Based Treaty. “Food choices are one of the most powerful ways that individuals can help solve the climate crisis,” said the City’s Sustainability Coordinator, Rebecca Harvey. “Plant-based foods have a much lower carbon footprint than red meat and dairy. It’s not necessary to go fully vegan or vegetarian to help. Even selecting just one day a week, such as ‘Meatless Mondays,’ is an easy way that each of us can lead a more climate-friendly lifestyle.”

In addition to endorsing the Treaty, the City offers many programs and events to help combat the climate crisis, such as tree planting and giveaway events, free electric vehicle charging stations, an Energy Edge Rebate Program, and the Green Business Recognition Program. The latter is a way for restaurants to receive recognition for their climate actions by completing actions within the areas of waste reduction, recycling, energy and water conservation, and other green business practices. All participating restaurants offer at least one vegan or vegetarian main course option.

Final Thoughts

Addressing fossil fuels alone isn’t enough, as action on food systems is necessary, too. There are many ways for governments and municipalities to foster plant based systems. Collaborations with business is often fruitful (pun intended). Clearly, to reduce emissions and feed the forecasted 10 billion population sustainably on the planet in 2050, we have to accelerate innovation in the food sector. Innovation exists, but it is imperative to scale those technologies through strategic partnerships.

MassChallenge, the global network for innovators, has a competition-based, zero-equity model to support entrepreneurship in crucial areas, or industry tracks, to drive scalable progress. One of those areas is sustainable food, and the nonprofit has a Sustainable Food Systems Challenge in Switzerland, partnering with the likes of Nestle, Barry Callebaut, and the Swiss Economic Forum to award startups in the space. As of 2020, 2,928 startups have gone through MassChallenge, generated $3.6B in revenue, raised $8.6B in funding, and created 186k+ jobs.

Definitely check out the MassChallenge recent report on ways to bring community coming together to face a health crisis and an equally vital social justice movement.

Images provided through Plant Based Treaty COP26 press kit

 
 
 
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Written By

Carolyn Fortuna (they, them), Ph.D., is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.

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