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Is Dunedin Serious About The Climate Emergency?

A growing coalition of organisations including the Vegan Society of Aotearoa, the Plant Based Treaty, the Dunedin Ōtepoti Vegan Society and the Animal Save Movement are calling on the Mayor of Dunedin to make his city the first in Aotearoa to endorse the Plant Based Treaty. Their sister city of Edinburgh endorsed the Treaty in January, prompting PETA and the Vegan Society to call on Ōtepoti Dunedin to do the same.

Edinburgh City Council said, “Declaring a Plant Based Treaty endorsement is similar to declaring a climate emergency, it is an acknowledgement 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.”

In 2019, Dunedin City Council declared a climate emergency and announced their goal to make the city carbon neutral by 2030. The council states, “Climate change is urgent and one of our city’s highest priorities.” However, during the 2021-2022 financial year, animal agriculture was the largest source of emissions in Dunedin, accounting for 46% of the city's total gross emissions. In 2020, methane made up more than 43% of New Zealand’s total emissions, and animal agriculture accounted for 88.9% of this.

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Dunedin City Council’s Zero Carbon Plan is currently in development and includes four main areas of action: Transport, waste, energy, and local economy/community. Food production has not yet been included.

The Plant Based Treaty is a set of 38 proposals that if followed through at all levels of society, would result in a global plant-based economy. It can be endorsed by individuals, groups, places of education, businesses, councils, cities, and organisations. The Treaty is a blueprint for mitigating climate change, as research continues to show that the quickest and simplest way to reduce carbon emissions is a move towards a plant-based food system globally.

“It’s a deeply inconvenient truth, one that most people do not want to look at. However, with 8 billion people and still rising, what we all eat has never been a greater issue. The planet simply cannot resource a meat and dairy diet for all” said media spokesperson for the Vegan Society, Claire Insley.

Plant Based Treaty spokesperson, Summer Aitken said,"Along with increasingly dangerous warming, the production of animal-based food also drives large-scale deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water depletion. In these critical times where unprecedented weather events are becoming more serious and more frequent, a Plant Based Treaty and the transition to a sustainable, plant-based food system is essential."

By adopting as many of the proposals as possible, each city, organisation, place of education, business and group can do their part to mitigate climate change. This is a global problem and will require actions from everyone to solve. The decisions that are made now will affect future generations and the viability of human survival on the planet.

This is the start of how systems need to change, especially food systems. A C40 Cities report said that focusing on the food emissions was the greatest saving by far that any city could do. The sooner humanity comes together to solve this issue, the better for all living creatures on the planet.

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