Dietary shift, emissions pricing critical for sustainable food system

We need to transform the very nature of the global food system: Scientists

Proponents of degrowth have long argued that economic growth is detrimental to the environment. Now, scientists show that concerning the food sector, curbing growth alone would not make our food system sustainable but changing what we eat and putting a price on carbon would. In a first, a group led by the Potsdam Institute, Germany used a quantitative food and land system model to gauge the effects of degrowth and efficiency proposals on the food sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.

They find that combining a dietary shift, emissions pricing, and international income transfers could make the world’s food system emissions-neutral by the end of the 21st century, providing at the same time a healthier nutrition for a growing world population.

The way we produce food and manage our land is responsible for up to a third of global greenhouse gas emissions along the entire supply chain. 

A sustainable food system transformation that takes into account all costs for the environment would entail a slight increase in food prices, felt especially by the poor, the scientists show. Any transformation hence must be accompanied by a well thought out policy mix of smart taxing schemes, social compensation for CO2 pricing, and international transfers. Also, making agriculture more climate friendly, e.g. by controlling nitrogen flows in croplands, requires investment. These costs, however, are likely offset by the restoration of ecosystem services.

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