Fact check: No, these cities don’t want to ban meat
Reports circulating on social media claim that some cities plan to fight climate change by enforcing radical controls on consumption, such as banning meat and private car ownership
"One hundred cities want to ban meat, dairy products and private cars by 2030," reads the headline on German blog tkp. Meanwhile, Report24.news says that more than 1,000 cities want to enforce such bans.
Similar claims including German cities such as Frankfurt or Berlin have been circulating on social networks such as TikTok and X (formerly Twitter) have been gaining attention recently. A Telegram post on the topic by Report24.news has been viewed more than 120,000 times. It was also reposted on Facebook by two parliamentarians with the far-right Alternative for Germany party, Jörn König and Dirk Spaniel
The alleged plans are circulating beyond German-speaking countries like the United States as well, with Houston, San Francisco and Chicago among the 14 US cities that have been named.
Similar narratives can also be found in Spanish. What most have in common is the claim that cities around the world allegedly want to enforce the following measures by 2030 in the interest of climate protection:
Banning the consumption of meat and dairy products.
Disallowing private car ownership.
A limit of three new items of clothing per person each year.
A limit of one short-haul flight every three years for each person.
DW fact check: false.
In short, ideas that were defined and theoretically calculated in a scientific report as possible ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions have been falsely framed on social media as binding targets to which various cities have committed themselves.
DW asked the German cities mentioned in the articles for comment, and all have rejected the reports.
What is the origin of the claims?
The posts refer to a report titled "The future of urban consumption in a 1.5°C world," published in 2019 by the C40 Cities network, the University of Leeds and the Arup consultancy firm.
The C40 Cities network is mentioned repeatedly in the claims. Made up of nearly 100 cities worldwide that collectively account for more than 20% of the global economy and are working to limit climate change, it includes the German cities of Berlin and Heidelberg.
The report analyzes the climate impact of consumption in C40 cities, looking at how certain lifestyle changes – such as eating less meat and buying less clothing – would affect their greenhouse gas emissions from 2030 on.
The authors also distinguish between progressive and ambitious targets. Among the ambitious targets are the criteria denounced in the false claims: no meat, no dairy, no private cars, and so on.
But the authors of the study emphasize that their expectation is not that these will be implemented one-to-one. For example, the study 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."
"C40 does not prescribe concrete policies for member cities," a spokesperson from the network told DW. "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."
What does 'Cities Race to Zero' have to do with this?
In short: nothing. But some of the publications or social media posts making the false claims have suggested a connection. For example, they say that participants of the Cities Race to Zero initiative have committed to implementing the report's purported goals, such as banning meat by 2030.
This is where the number 1,000 comes into play again. The Cities Race to Zero initiative now includes more than 1,100 cities worldwide. It is part of the Race to Zero campaign, which aims to cut global emissions in half by 2030. In a kind of declaration of intent, cities that sign also commit to the 2015 Paris climate agreement's goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and to integrate climate issues into all decision-making processes and pledge to be climate neutral by 2050 at the latest. The exact criteria can be found here.
C40 describes itself as a partner of Cities Race to Zero. However, a spokesperson confirmed to DW that there is no connection between the study, which is the source of the false claims, and the initiative.
What do the cities say?
Some reports spreading the false claims in German mention cities in the country that support the Cities Race to Zero initiative. DW wrote to each of the German cities that are listed as supporters of the campaign by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as of Aug. 31, 2023. At the time of this article's publication, 15 of 17 had responded: Berlin, Bonn, Dortmund, Essen, Frankfurt am Main, Hamburg, Heidelberg, Ingolstadt, Constance, Mannheim, Munich, Münster, Oldenburg, Pforzheim and Speyer.
Pforzheim, Ingolstadt and Hamburg stated that they were actually not supporters of the Cities Race to Zero initiative, but were on the list by mistake. The press offices in Dortmund and Munich had no information as to whether and to what extent their city was involved.
Apart from Hamburg, which did not offer comment, the rest of the cities denied that any of the regulations mentioned were planned: No ban on the sale or consumption of meat or dairy products, no end to private ownership of cars, no annual limit of three new items of clothing per person, and no limit of one short-haul flight per person every three years.
Several press offices stressed that there would also be no legal basis for cities to enforce such restrictions. Berlin and Heidelberg – the two German cities in the C40 network – stressed that even if the report published in 2019 referred to C40 cities, this would not give rise to any obligations on their part.
No feedback was available from Gütersloh and Hannover at the time of publication.