Edinburgh and Stockholm could rewild 408,000ha of land if its residents adopted plant-based diets, the director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Food Sustainability Analytics at Oxford University, Dr. Joseph Poore said.

This transition to a vegan lifestyle could lead to a combined reduction of 4.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (eq) emissions, which is equal to taking 1.5 million cars off the road, he said.

A change in diet is needed to free up large amounts of land for rewilding, both natural vegetation growth and rewilding to bring species back but also for carbon sequestration, Dr. Poore said.

Every person that adopts a vegan diet could spare 4,700m2 of land, which he said would provide habitats for five birds, 15 mammals, 20 reptiles, 100 amphibians and absorb 150t of CO2 into plants and soil.

Edinburgh and Stockholm

An area of 232,000ha could be rewilded in Edinburgh, which is equivalent to the size of the Lake District National Park and to removing 532,000 cars from the streets.

If the city fully embraced vegan diets, land could be rewilded almost ten times larger than the city itself, enabling carbon sequestration and enhanced biodiversity, according to Dr. Poore.

Earlier this year the city became the first capital in Europe to endorse the call for a plant-based treaty, which aims to halt the “widespread degradation” of ecosystems caused by animal agriculture, communications director for the Plant Based Treaty initiative, Nicola Harris said.

In the case of Stockholm, an additional 176,000ha of land could be rewilded by switching to plant-based diets, reducing emissions equal to the removal of 935,000 cars, Dr. Poore said.

Plant-based diet

A vegan diet would yield the biggest reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per person at 2.9t CO2eq, compared to 0.2t CO2eq by recycling, and 1.7t CO2eq by avoiding a transatlantic flight, he said.

Dr. Poore was a contributing author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 6th Assessment Working Group III report, according to the Plant Based Treaty initiative.

The report shows that switching to a plant-based diet could reduce land use by 3.1 billion hectares, and decrease food-related GHG emissions by 6.5 Gt of CO2eq per year, according to the initiative.

Stockholm’s mayor, Karin Wanngard warned that if we keep producing and eating the food we do today, we will not reach the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2°, pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°.

Schools, pre-schools and elderly homes in Stockholm are taking a leap towards organic plant-based and locally produced food, the city’s mayor added.