In 2015, the Paris Agreement was adopted by 196 parties at COP21. The parties set a goal to limit rising temperatures due to global warming to below 2°C. Participating countries have made strides in trying to achieve this goal in recent years by investing in low and zero-carbon solutions. However, much of the focus has been on the energy industry. This is largely due to a big focus of the conversation around climate change, exclusively focusing on how carbon dioxide affects the crisis. However, carbon dioxide is only one of the greenhouse gases affecting our planet.
Animal agriculture generates 65% of the world’s nitrous oxide, which has an impact 296 times that of carbon dioxide on our atmosphere. But since it’s much easier to convince people to switch their energy source rather than their diets, and since animal agriculture plays a massive role in economies worldwide, nitrous oxide’s detrimental effects on the planet are often avoided. However, things are starting to look brighter as people are beginning to vote with their wallets—plant-based foods saw a 6% dollar growth last year, which was three times faster than overall food sales.
The good news doesn’t stop there. In October, Los Angeles became the first U.S. city to sign the Plant Based Treaty. The City Council voted unanimously to adopt the treaty, which aims to empower leaders to help move their communities away from animal agriculture and toward a plant-based diet. The treaty was written as a companion to the Paris Agreement and focuses on three core principles: relinquish land used for animal agriculture back to nature, redirect communities towards plant-based diets, and restore affected lands through reforestation. L.A. is now the second C40 city to have signed the treaty.
The C40 cities are a network of mayors around the world who are ”taking urgent action to confront the climate crisis and create a future where everyone can thrive.” Today, there are 97 member cities in C40; however, aside from Los Angeles, the city of Buenos Aries in Argentina is the only other member to have endorsed the Plant Based Treaty thus far. With C40’s mission being to halve emissions of member cities within the decade, the goals laid out by the Plant-Based Treaty would help the members make leaps and bounds towards achieving this mission. Allie Molinaro, the campaigns manager for Compassion in World Farming, believes that “if C40 leaders are serious about upholding the Paris Agreement, they must turn their attention toward transitioning to a plant-based food system.”
With food deserts, lack of funding, and lack of infrastructure, it’s not always easy for every city to immediately adopt plant-based agriculture and food systems for their residents. However, the Plant Based Treaty does an excellent job setting up a framework to help city leaders guide their communities towards a healthier body and planet. With California being home to the country’s largest dairy industry, this is a huge step for Los Angeles and is an excellent example of how our surroundings and past experiences don’t have to dictate our future. I am so excited to see local governments stepping up, seeing the importance of transitioning away from animal agriculture and setting systems in motion rather than waiting for national leadership. I genuinely believe that it is on these smaller scales that we can truly make a massive impact as we continue to work together.
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Photo: Olenka Kotyk on Unsplash