Edinburgh has become the first European capital to commit to a shift towards plant-based diets to lower the city's "consumption-based emissions".

The city's council has endorsed the Plant Based Treaty, launched during Cop26 in Glasgow, which calls for a move towards diets with less consumption of meat and dairy products.

The treaty urges for the swap in order to reduce food-related emissions and help tackle climate change

And the council leader has committed to writing to the First Minister requesting the Scottish Government follows suit.

Scottish Green councillor Steve Burgess introduced the initiative to the council last March and it was agreed an impact assessment will be created. 

The report acknowledges that food sources high in plant protein and low in meat and dairy "for lower greenhouse gas emissions, and that consequently, shifting consumption towards plant-based diets has a major mitigation potential". 

“Overall, the science is clear, meat and dairy consumption must reduce to achieve climate targets," the impact report adds. 

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Food and diet account for 23 per cent of Edinburgh’s consumption-based footprint with 12% of these emissions from the consumption of meat. 

Cllr Burgess said: "Edinburgh council itself now also has a fantastic opportunity to encourage far more plant-based eating and I look forward to the forthcoming council report on how we can do that.

"By declaring our endorsement, we are acknowledging that food systems are a main driver of the climate emergency and that a shift towards plant-based diets can go a huge way in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"Plant-rich diets are also a ‘win-win-win’ for society: they have a lower environmental impact, significant health benefits, and reduce animal welfare impacts.”

The Scottish capital has joined 20 cities around the world in backing the treaty.

The Green group has also requested an action plan and timescale for implementing potential changes to council activities.

Ben Parker, co-convenor of the Edinburgh Green group, said: "To sign the treaty is to show that we take our climate commitments seriously, and recognise the science behind the climate emergency – that is, to know that food systems are key drivers of emissions, and that plant-based foods must figure as part of the solution to tackling climate change.

"When it comes to the climate emergency, we must leave no stone unturned. We need to see a radical and wholescale shift in our approach to all manner of policies, actions and activities – crucially, this must include food systems, and that’s why I’m so pleased to see the Council sign the treaty today.”

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The treaty is inspired by agreements that have addressed the threats of ozone layer depletion and nuclear weapons.

Nicola Harris, communications director at Plant Based Treaty, said: “Edinburgh has lived up to its reputation as a global climate leader by acknowledging the critical need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the food system to achieve our climate targets.

“Promoting plant-based food across Edinburgh will help residents make informed choices that are better for the planet, personal health and animal protection.”

However, rural campaigning groups have expressed concerns over the move and accused the council of “turning its back” on surrounding farming communities.

Scottish Countryside Alliance director Jake Swindells said: "It is disappointing to see a city council complicit in pandering to misinformation about livestock farming in Britain, which is among the most sustainable in the world.

"The UK climate is ideal for growing grass for animals to eat. Around 65% of farmland in the UK is best suited to growing grass rather than other crops.

"If we did not graze livestock on it, we could not use it to produce food. 

“Added to that, it seems extraordinary that council officials have likely wasted huge amounts of vital time and resources compiling assessment reports, when there are very pressing issues directly affecting the people of Edinburgh."

The treaty’s demands include transitioning to plant-based meal plans in schools, hospitals and nursing homes, introducing a ‘meat tax’, banning the development of any new farms that have livestock and agreeing not to halt the expansion of any existing farms. 

Mr Swindells added: “Knowing where your food comes from and how it is produced is far more important than whether it is animal or vegetable.

"The city council should opt instead for engaging with local farmers about the work they are doing to produce sustainable food, while doing their part to protect and enhance our countryside.

"As it stands, they are open to the accusation of being an anti-farming authority”.