Food for thought: cities should aim for a ‘Planetary Health Diet’
October 13 2019 11:35 PM

When 14 global cities committed to the C40 Good Food Cities Declaration last week in Copenhagen, Denmark, in order to promote and preserve the health of citizens and the health of the planet, the mayors concerned set in motion a process that should ideally be adopted across the world. Barcelona, Copenhagen, Guadalajara, Lima, London, Los Angeles, Milan, Oslo, Paris, Quezon City, Seoul, Stockholm, Tokyo and Toronto made the pledge at the C40 World Mayors Summit. Mayors will work with their citizens to achieve a ‘Planetary Health Diet’ for all by 2030, with balanced and nutritious food, reflective of the culture, geography, and demography of their citizens. Mayors will use their procurement powers to change what kind of food cities buy, and introduce policies that make healthy, delicious and low-carbon food affordable and accessible for all. They will also reduce food loss and wasted food. Research released by C40 Cities in June 2019, revealed that food is amongst the biggest sources of consumption-based emissions from cities. Eating a sustainable diet and avoiding food waste could cut greenhouse gas emissions from the food we eat by more than 60%.
Research by The EAT-Lancet Commission released in January 2019 found that if adopted universally, the ‘Planetary Health Diet’ would dramatically reduce emissions, provide a balanced, nutritional diet for 10 billion people, and save 11 million lives each year. The planetary health diet is comprised of balanced and nutritious food providing up to 2,500 calories a day for all adults, not to exceed 16kg of meat per person per year or ~300g per week, and 90kg of dairy per person per year or ~250g per day, and low in ultra-processed food. A planetary health plate should consist of approximately half a plate of vegetables and fruits; the other half should consist of primarily whole grains, plant protein sources, unsaturated plant oils, and (optionally) modest amounts of animal sources of protein.
Under the C40 Good Food Cities Declaration, cities commit to: Align food procurement policies to the Planetary Health Diet ideally sourced from organic agriculture; support an overall increase of healthy plant-based food consumption in our cities by shifting away from unsustainable, unhealthy diets; reduce food loss and waste by 50% from 2015 figures; and work with citizens, businesses, public institutions and other organisations to develop a joint strategy for implementing these measures and achieving these goals inclusively and equitably, and incorporating this strategy into the city’s Climate Action Plan.
The 14 signatory cities serve 500mn meals per year – in schools, hospitals, and other public buildings, and are improving availability and affordability of delicious, nutritious and sustainable food for their 64mn citizens. The C40 Good Food Cities Declaration will therefore directly benefit millions of people and provide a clear signal to the market that there is great demand for healthy, delicious and sustainable food. The global food system is a major driver of harmful greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for around a quarter of all emissions which are driving the global climate emergency.
Without substantial changes to the ways in which we produce, transport, consume, and dispose of food, C40’s research shows that emissions from the food sector are set to increase by nearly 40% by 2050. The accelerating climate crisis threatens our ability to feed the world’s growing population. Currently, more than 820mn people around the world suffer from hunger. At the same time, global diet trends also contribute to increased rates of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer; rising healthcare costs; and millions of premature deaths each year.

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