Amsterdam Is Vying With 24 Other Cities for the Title of "Plant-Based Capital"

In a significant move towards environmental sustainability and climate action, Amsterdam has joined a growing list of cities worldwide in endorsing the Plant Based Treaty (PBT). This move makes Amsterdam the first European Union capital to support the initiative, marking an important step in the global effort to shift towards more sustainable, plant-based food systems.

Joining a league of 25 cities worldwide that have signed the PBT, Amsterdam’s endorsement of the treaty is part of its broader Food Strategy, aimed at revolutionizing the city’s dietary habits. 

“The way we produce, distribute, process, and consume food has a significant impact on the health of people and animals and contributes to the climate crisis,” the City of Amsterdam Council said in a statement. 

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This strategy underlines the city’s commitment to ensuring all its residents have access to food that is not only healthy and fair but also sustainable and affordable.

The city has also set ambitious goals to pivot its protein consumption patterns, with an aim to shift the protein ratio in the city’s diet from 40- to 60-percent plant-based by 2030. 

The Council further explained the pledge to be plant-based, highlighting health benefits, such as lower risks of cardiovascular diseases and colorectal cancer, and the positive impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, land use, and ocean depletion.

Amsterdam pledges plant-based shift 

The latest science continues to show that animal agriculture is a leading contributor to the climate crisis and that a shift toward a plant-based diet can offer a powerful solution. In fact, a 2023 report from international researchers was presented at the World Forum in Davos, Switzerland that identified the public procurement of plant-based proteins as one of the “super leverage” points in mitigating the climate crisis. 

In addition to its commitment to the PBT, Amsterdam is taking a leading role in the protein transition. Following a motion tabled by the Party for the Animals, the city is working towards becoming a “Plant-Based Capital.”

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This includes a comprehensive plan involving major employers and public institutions such as hospitals and community centers. Key initiatives include offering full plant-based meal options in all publicly funded institutions from 2024, committing to a Vegan Friday in all restoration and catering from the same year, and aligning with the set animal-plant protein ratio by 2030.

Amsterdam’s decision to sign the Plant Based Treaty is a call to action for residents and other European cities alike. 

“The easiest way to prevent further temperature rises is to cut methane fast, and of all the methane produced in the Netherlands, around 70 percent comes from animal farming,” Lea Goodett of PBT Netherlands, said in a statement. 

“A plant-based food system can deliver the methane cuts we need and offer an opportunity to feed the world with one-quarter of the land, allowing us to return vast areas of land to nature,” Goodett said. 

Building plant-powered cities

The PBT, inspired by the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, aims to address the food system’s impacts on climate change.

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This global movement has seen endorsements from other major cities. Last year, Edinburgh became the first European capital to sign the treaty, integrating plant-based diets into its climate action plan. Los Angeles, which was the largest US city to endorse the treaty last year, highlights the increasing awareness and adoption of sustainable food practices in urban settings.

“In light of recent protests by farmers in Paris, Berlin, and Brussels, the PBT hopes to bring everyone together,” Lisette Weustenenk, a PBT Netherlands campaigner, said in a statement.

“Rising temperatures are a risk to food insecurity and food inflation, with 63 percent of arable land in Europe being used to grow crops for farmed animals rather than humans directly,” she said.

The PBT also provides a framework and resources for transitioning farmers away from animal agriculture and toward plant-based crops and other opportunities. 

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“The PBT supports fair pay for farmers and financial packages, including subsidies to transition to sustainable plant-based systems and funding for rewilding and land stewardship,” Weustenenk said.

More cities embracing plant-based

In addition to supporting the PBT, cities have made other moves in the plant-based direction. 

This year, Baltimore, MD became the first US city to declare January as “Veganuary,” a month-long challenge to eat plant-based food that just celebrated its 10th year of advocacy. In his proclamation, the city’s mayor, Brandon M. Scott, urged Baltimoreans to “explore and continue to add plant-based options by default” throughout January and beyond. 

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To further promote vegan options in the region, last year, Scott also proclaimed August as “Maryland Vegan Restaurant Month.” 

Northern California’s Berkeley has also been a pioneering city in shifting its focus to plant-based foods. In 2021, the city council adopted a resolution to significantly reduce its consumption of animal products, targeting a 50-percent cut by 2024, and a long-term goal of completely phasing out animal product purchases in favor of plant-based options. 

Authored by Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Councilmember Sophie Hahn, this initiative will introduce more plant-based meals in city facilities such as summer camps, senior centers, and the Berkeley City Jail.  

Nearby in Mountain View, CA—known for being the headquarters of tech giant Google—a similar plan was put into motion in 2019 when the city’s then mayor, longtime vegetarian Lisa Matichak, signed the Sustainability Action Plan (SAP) that includes initiatives to promote plant-based options. 

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Over in New York City, several plant-based initiatives have been introduced in recent years thanks in large part to Mayor Eric L. Adams. These include Plant-Powered Fridays at NYC public schools, a plant-based approach to medicine in NYC hospital systems, and more.

Adams’ initiatives in NYC inspired a monumental resolution signed at the 91st annual US Conference of Mayors last year. More than 1,400 US mayors ratified a resolution supporting a shift towards a plant-based approach in addressing mounting challenges of chronic diseases, climate crisis, and healthcare costs.

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