In its efforts to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets, international policy has focused almost exclusively on the energy sector. Yet, as the global population and per capita demand for food both increase, emissions from agricultural sources risk jeopardising the achievement of those climate targets, as they already account for over a quarter of all anthropogenic emissions. The risk is heightened if the increasing demand for food causes further agricultural expansion and land cover change. Furthermore, increasing per capita food consumption, and also the share of livestock products, can have adverse effects on human health. There is accordingly a close interdependence between consumption patterns, human health and the sustainability of the earth system. Well-designed policies targeting the demand for particular foods could simultaneously improve the health of the global population, and restrict greenhouse gas emissions along with the impacts of land cover change. This briefing paper reviews and summarises evidence for this claim, and urges the need for policies that seek to achieve both better human health and environmental sustainability.
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