Written by: Kimberly White 

Mayors from around the globe are committing to reduce meat consumption in their cities. Mayors from 14 cities signed the C40 Good Food Cities Declaration at the C40 World Mayors Summit during October in Copenhagen. 

By signing the Good Food Cities Declaration, mayors pledge to work with their citizens in achieving the Planetary Health Diet for everyone by 2030. 

Through the planetary health diet, citizens’ diets would consist of up to 2,500 calories daily of balanced and nutritious food. The planetary health diet focuses on increasing the consumption of plant-based food with little to no animal sources of protein. 

“Transformation to healthy diets by 2050 will require substantial dietary shifts. Global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes will have to double, and consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar will have to be reduced by more than 50%,” explained Dr. Walter Willett, Co-chair of the EAT-Lancet Commission and a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits.”

In 2016, a study by the University of Oxford revealed that 5.1 million deaths per year could be avoided if more people adopted global dietary guidelines. Approximately half of the avoided deaths were due to a reduction in red meat consumption. Similarly, the planetary health diet boasts a balanced, nutritional diet for 10 billion people while also saving 11 million lives annually. 

A leading cause of the climate emergency, the animal agriculture industry emits around 7.1 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide each year. Beef and cattle production account for the majority of those emissions with the primary sources being enteric fermentation from ruminants, feed production and processing, and manure decomposition. The process is also resource-intensive. Production of 1kg of beef requires 25kg of grain and approximately 15,000 liters of water. 

C40 Cities’ research revealed that food is one of the most significant sources of consumption-based emissions from cities. Additionally, the report found that if substantial changes to the production, transportation, consumption, and disposal of food are not made, emissions from the food sector could increase by nearly 40% by 2050. 

“The EAT-Lancet Commission landmark report provides the first-ever scientific targets for healthy diets from sustainable food systems at the global level, and now cities are paving the way for how to implement these in the local context. The Planetary Health Diet is flexible and can be adapted across all culinary traditions and cultural preferences,” said Dr. Gunhild A. Stordalen, Founder & Executive Chair, EAT. “A radical transformation of our global food system is critical to mitigate climate change, halt biodiversity loss and build prosperous economies, while improving the health and wellbeing of populations. It is extremely encouraging and inspiring to see cities rising to this challenge and making bold commitments.”

C40 Good Food Cities Declaration signatories are: Barcelona, Copenhagen, Guadalajara, Lima, London, Los Angeles, Milan, Oslo, Quezon City, Seoul, Stockholm, Tokyo, and Toronto. 

The 14 cities that have signed the Good Food Cities Declaration commit to:

  • Aligning food procurement policies to the Planetary Health Diet.
  • Moving away from unsustainable diets and supporting an overall increase of plant-based food consumption in their cities.
  • Reducing food loss and waste by 50% from 2015 figures.
  • Developing a joint strategy alongside citizens, businesses, public institutions, and other organizations to implement the above measures inclusively and equitably. The strategy will also be incorporated into the cities’ climate action plans. 

“The climate emergency is more urgent than ever, and our response must be commensurate with the challenge ahead of us,” said Giuseppe Sala, Mayor of Milan. “We must look at how we can effect change in every and any sector, and food is one of the most important cultural and economic assets of urban communities. Cities have many powers that can deliver impact. By signing this declaration, we commit to work together with urgency and use our procurement powers to change the urban food environment. We need to address the negative impacts of over consumption and unsustainable practices in our food systems, including food waste, in order to accelerate emissions reductions and enable all citizens to make healthier, more informed choices.”