408,000 hectares of land could be rewilded by adopting plant-based diets

Edinburgh and Stockholm could rewild 408,000 hectares of land by adopting plant-based diets, says Oxford academic Dr. Joseph Poore. The transition could lead to a combined reduction of 4.6 million tonnes of CO2eq emissions, equivalent to taking 1.5 million cars off the road 

During a recent webinar hosted by Plant Based Treaty and Vegoforum, Dr Joseph Poore, Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Food Sustainability Analytics at Oxford University, revealed new eye-opening calculations demonstrating the environmental benefits of the residents of Edinburgh and Stockholm adopting a vegan lifestyle.

408,000 hectares of land could be rewilded by adopting vegan plant-based diets

What if Edinburgh and Stockholm went vegan?
Should Edinburgh embrace plant-based diets, a massive 232,000 hectares of land could be rewilded, an area the size of the Lake District National Park; emissions savings would be equivalent to removing 532,000 cars from the streets. If Stockholm were to follow suit, an additional 176,000 hectares of land could be rewilded, an area the size of Sarek National Park, and the emissions reduction would match taking 935,000 cars off the road.
Nicola Harris, communications director for Plant Based Treaty, said, “What Joseph Poore has demonstrated is if Edinburgh fully embraced vegan diets, we could rewild land almost ten times larger than the city itself, enabling us to draw down carbon from the atmosphere and enhance biodiversity.” On January 18, 2023, Edinburgh became the first European capital to endorse the Plant Based Treaty, backed by 21 municipal governments worldwide, including Los Angeles.
Karin Wanngård, the vegan Mayor of Stockholm, who introduced the webinar, said,
“If we keep producing and eating the food we do today, we will not reach the Paris Agreement and the world as we know it won’t be the same. Now is the time for states and cities to take a greater responsibility for the food people consume. In our city, we have nearly 1 million inhabitants, the schools, pre-schools and elderly homes of Stockholm are taking a leap towards organic plant-based and locally produced food.”
More than 1,000 people registered for the webinar, including councillors from more than 35 town and city councils in the UK.
Dr Joseph Poore said, “Plant Based Treaty has focused on getting cities to sign up, which is a really exciting and innovative idea. We have to take carbon dioxide out of the air. We need diet change to free up and liberate large amounts of land for rewilding; both natural vegetation growth, rewilding to bring species back but also for negative emissions. There are very large benefits to cities adopting plant-based diets, it’s a really great initiative the Plant Based Treaty is doing, and I think it’s essential to get more cities signed up and get those cities delivering on what they’ve committed to.”
Dr Joseph Poore was a contributing author of the IPCC 6th Assessment Working Group III report. His 2018 study with Thomas Nemecek, Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers featured heavily throughout the report.
One thing that the IPCC highlighted in their report was that shifting to plant-based diets could reduce land use by 3.1 billion ha, decrease food-related GHG emissions by 6.5 GtCO2-eq yr–1, acidification by 50%, eutrophication by 49%, and freshwater withdrawals by 19%. (See graphic)
Every person that adopts a vegan diet could spare 4,700m2 of land, which would provide habitats for five birds, 15 mammals, 20 reptiles, 100 amphibians and absorb 150 tonnes of carbon dioxide into plants and soil. (See graphic)
In the webinar, Joseph Poore noted that we need to take individual action on all fronts to limit global temperatures to 1.5-2C warming, and the biggest thing an individual can do is adopt a vegan diet. He demonstrated that greenhouse gas emissions saved per person by recycling is 0.2 tonnes CO2eq, and avoiding a transatlantic flight saves 1.7 tonnes CO2eq; however, adopting a vegan diet would bring the biggest savings 2.9 tonnes CO2eq. (See graphic)
Dr Joseph Poore’s new research will focus on veganic farming throughout Europe. He is seeking collaborators, funders and environmental modellers to work with.
The Plant Based Treaty is modelled on the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty and inspired by treaties that have addressed the threats of ozone layer depletion and nuclear weapons. Since its launch in August 2021, the initiative has received support from 85,000 individual endorsers, 5 Nobel laureates, IPCC scientists, more than 2000 NGOs and businesses, including Ecotricity, Linda McCartney Foods, Oceanic Preservation Society, Environmental Alliance Project, VIVA!, BOSH!, Animal Rebellion, and chapters of Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Extinction Rebellion.
The Plant Based Treaty has secured high-profile endorsements from celebrities, including Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney, who issued a written statement calling for politicians to support the Plant-Based Treaty. They said: “We 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.”
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