Fact Check

14 US Cities Say Goodbye to Meat, Dairy, and Private Cars?

Could the World Economic Forum be getting rid of all your favorite things to help prevent climate change?

Published Aug. 31, 2023

 (DestinationFearFan/Wikimedia Commons)
Image Via DestinationFearFan/Wikimedia Commons
Claim:
Fourteen U.S. cities are planning to ban meat, dairy products and private cars by 2030, according to a World Economic Forum treaty.
Context

A 2019 research document titled “The future of urban consumption in a 1.5°C world” offers recommendations and analysis about how to reduce emissions in cities. It is not a legally binding treaty and is not affiliated with the World Economic Forum.

In August 2023, a number of articles claimed that 14 U.S. cities were going to ban meat, dairy products and private cars by 2030, in an effort to combat the effects of climate change. 

Red State, a right-leaning blog, claimed on Aug. 21, 2023, "14 American cities are aiming at what is sure to be an elusive target: banning meat and dairy consumption and the use of private automobiles - in just seven years." The post blamed Democratic mayors who were "elitists of the worst sort." 

The Federalist called these alleged bans "dystopian goals" and stated that if these "climate aims" are carried out, then people "will die."

The People's Voice, another self-proclaimed news site, wrote in an Aug. 20, 2023, article that this plan was a "World Economic Forum (WEF) treaty that legally compels [the cities] to ban meat, dairy, and private car ownership by the year 2030."

The above claims are false. There is no plan for 14 U.S. cities to ban meat, dairy, and private cars by 2030. The claims incorrectly interpret language from a 2019 report published by C40 Cities, Leeds University and Arup Group titled "The Future of Urban Consumption in a 1.5°C World." We also found no evidence that a group of U.S. cities had signed onto plans to ban such products for consumption.

This is not the first time we've had to cover misrepresentations of the same report. The People's Voice has also claimed that according to the report, fashion would be abolished by 2030, and everyone would be forced into a uniform, which we debunked here at Snopes. 

Looking at the language in the report, we found that the research serves as recommendations that are in no way binding. 

We reached out to C40 Cities, which is a network of 100 mayors from major cities around the world that aim to tackle the climate crisis — and 14 of its member cities are in the United States. The report focused on specific interventions within those cities that could help reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

A spokesperson told us, "The report is an analysis of consumption-based emissions in C40 cities, not a plan for cities to adopt. It's up to individuals to make their personal lifestyle choices, including what type of food to eat and what type of clothing they prefer."

It presents data analysis for a reduction in carbon emissions if populations were to reduce their consumption habits. The report states:

If C40 cities change their food consumption habits in line with the identified progressive targets, the category's emissions could be cut by 51% between 2017 and 2050 (Figure 19). The adoption of ambitious targets would enable an additional 9% reduction.

Adopting dietary change is the consumption intervention with the greatest potential for emissions reductions. Adopting a healthy diet (i.e. lowering meat and dairy intake) would contribute 60% of the emissions reduction (43% and 17% respectively), while the remainder is likely associated with reduced calorie intake, in line with health guidance, as well as the recommended alternatives. Additionally, avoiding household food waste and supply chain food waste would reduce current food-related emissions by 10% and 5%, respectively. 

The report also points out the benefits of reducing meat consumption: "Eating less red meat and more vegetables and fruits could prevent annually 160,000 deaths associated with diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke in C40 cities."

A figure on page 78 of the report outlines "consumption interventions," which are classified under progressive and ambitious targets. The ambitious targets highlight how 0 kg meat and dairy consumption by 2030 could result in a significant reduction of household food waste. A glossary at the beginning of the report describes what the group means by "targets":

Ambitious target: Target level of ambition for consumption interventions that is more 'ambitious', based on a future vision of resource-efficient production and extensive changes in consumer choices. This level was typically informed by expert judgement rather than existing research.

[...]

Progressive target: Target level of ambition for consumption interventions determined through research on currently available technologies and evidence of feasibility for progressive changes in consumer choices (e.g. historic evidence of consumer habit change or alignment with other consumer priorities such as health).

An explainer published by C40 on the report states this is, "An analysis, not a plan" and "An invitation, not a prescription." On page 68 of the report, when explaining its "ambitious targets," it states, "This report does not advocate for the wholesale adoption of these more ambitious targets in C40 cities; rather, they are included to provide a set of reference points that cities, and other actors, can reflect on when considering different emission-reduction alternatives and long-term urban visions." 

On page 69, the report also adds, "Achieving these targets will be difficult, both socially and economically." 

The C40 explainer adds that these are not solutions that will work for every city (emphasis, ours):

We explored ways to make the production of goods and services less carbon-intensive without compromising their function, and provided a scenario for the adoption of low-carbon choices without compromising quality of life. In practice, these ideas aren't intended for every person, community or city. To successfully transition to a lower-carbon economy, cities must balance their ambition with what's financially, technologically and culturally feasible. No one city or nation will follow the exact same emissions reduction pathway. 

The C40 Cities spokesperson also told us that it had no connection to the WEF: "The report was neither funded by the World Economic Forum, nor does C40 have a formal relationship with WEF, aside from two staff members sitting on WEF's global future councils for clean air and for net zero living."

The WEF, as we have reported before, is an influential international organization known for fostering private-public partnerships around the economy, international development, and more, and is often the target of myriad conspiracy theories surrounding its real-life ties to elite networks that online rumor-mongers believe are nefariously planning to create totalitarian regimes.

We found no evidence of the WEF's involvement in the report by looking at the C40's funders and partner's page

Given that the report is an analysis, that there is no evidence of 14 cities in the U.S. signing a treaty agreeing to such bans, that the report is not a binding document, something we have stated in a past fact check, and that the report has no affiliation with the WEF, we rate this claim as "False." 

Sources

"A Spotlight on Consumption-Based Emissions." C40 Cities, https://www.c40.org/news/consumption-emissions-report-spotlight/. Accessed 31 Aug. 2023.

Adl-Tabatabai, Sean. "14 U.S. Cities Sign WEF Treaty To Ban Meat, Dairy, Private Cars by 2030." The People's Voice, 20 Aug. 2023, https://thepeoplesvoice.tv/14-u-s-cities-sign-wef-treaty-to-ban-meat-diary-private-cars-by-2030/. Accessed 31 Aug. 2023.

Clark, Ward. "14 American Cities Aim to Ban Meat, Dairy, Private Cars by 2030." Redstate.Com, https://redstate.com/wardclark/2023/08/21/14-american-cities-aim-to-ban-meat-dairy-private-cars-by-2030-n2162855. Accessed 31 Aug. 2023.

Duffy-Alfonso, Evita. "These 14 US Cities Have A 'Target' Of Banning Meat By 2030." The Federalist, 19 Aug. 2023, https://thefederalist.com/2023/08/19/these-14-american-cities-have-a-target-of-banning-meat-dairy-and-private-vehicles-by-2030/. Accessed 31 Aug. 2023.

"Funders & Partners." C40 Cities, https://www.c40.org/funders-partners/. Accessed 31 Aug. 2023.

Ibrahim, Nur. "Did WEF Say 'Humans Will All Wear a Uniform' By 2030?" Snopes, 7 July 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/wef-fashion-humans-uniforms/. Accessed 31 Aug. 2023.

Ibrahim, Nur. "Interview with C40 Cities Spokesperson." 31 Aug. 2023.

Kasprak, Alex. "Was World Economic Forum Vice Chairman Aboard the Collapsed Titan Submersible?" Snopes, 23 June 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/wef-titan-submersible/. Accessed 31 Aug. 2023.

LaMagdeleine, Izz Scott. "No, the World Economic Forum Hasn't Ordered Governments to Legalize Marriage With Animals." Snopes, 7 Mar. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/wef-legalize-marriage-animals/. Accessed 31 Aug. 2023.

"The Future of Urban Consumption in a 1.5°C World." C40 Knowledge Community, June 2019. https://www.c40knowledgehub.org/s/article/The-future-of-urban-consumption-in-a-1-5-C-world?language=en_US. Accessed 31 Aug. 2023.

WEF Articles | Snopes.Com. https://www.snopes.com/search/WEF/. Accessed 31 Aug. 2023.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.