The potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the UK through healthy and realistic dietary change
- 2.5k Downloads
The UK has committed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80 % relative to 1990 levels by 2050, and it has been suggested that this should include a 70 % reduction in emissions from food. Meeting this target is likely to require significant changes to diets, but the likely effect of these changes on population nutritional intakes is currently unknown. However, the current average UK diets for men and women do not conform to WHO dietary recommendations, and this presents an opportunity to improve the nutritional content of diets while also reducing the associated GHG emissions. The results of this study show that if, in the first instance, average diets among UK adults conformed to WHO recommendations, their associated GHG emissions would be reduced by 17 %. Further GHG emission reductions of around 40 % could be achieved by making realistic modifications to diets so that they contain fewer animal products and processed snacks and more fruit, vegetables and cereals. However, our models show that reducing emissions beyond 40 % through dietary changes alone will be unlikely without radically changing current consumption patterns and potentially reducing the nutritional quality of diets.
KeywordsFood Group Dietary Change Life Cycle Analysis Nutritional Content Nutritional Recommendation
RG contributed to the study design, conducted data management and analysis, and drafted the paper. She is guarantor. JM contributed to the study design, analysed the data, and revised the paper. AD, AH and AM assisted with study design and revised the draft paper. ZC advised on modelling and revised the draft paper. JS provided data, conducted data management and analysis, and revised the draft paper. PW initiated the project, designed the study and revised the draft paper.
This study is a secondary analysis of publicly available data, and as such does not require ethical approval.
This work was supported by the European Commission 7th Framework Programme under Grant Agreement No. 265325. The funder had no role in the design, execution or writing up of the study.
- Audsley E, Brander M, Chatterton J, Murphy-Bokern D, Webster C, Williams A (2009). How low can we go? An assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from the UK food system and the scope for reduction by 2050, WWF-UKGoogle Scholar
- Bates B, Lennox A, Prentice A, Bates C, Swan G (2012) National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Headline results from Years 1, 2 and 3 (combined) of the Rolling Programme (2008/2009–2010/11). Department of Health, Food Standards Agency and NatCen Social Research, LondonGoogle Scholar
- CCC (2008) Building a low-carbon economy—the UK’s contribution to tackling climate change. Committee on Climate Change, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Foster C, Green K, Bleda M, Dewick P, Evans B, Flynn A, Mylan J (2006). Environmental impacts of food production and consumption. Final Report to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Manchester Business SchoolGoogle Scholar
- Hammerschlag K, Venkat K (2011) Meat-Eater’s guide to climate change and health: lifecycle assessments—methodology and results. Environmental Working Group, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
- R (2012) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Core Team. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, ViennaGoogle Scholar
- Tiffin R, Balcombe K, Salois M, Kehlbacher A (2011) Estimating food and drink elasticities. University of Reading and Defra, ReadingGoogle Scholar
- Varadhan R (2012). Alabama: constrained nonlinear optimization. R Package Version 2011.9-1. http://CRAN.R-project.org/package=alabama
- Venkat K (2011) The climate change and economic impacts of food waste in the United States. Int J Food Syst Dyn 2(4):431–446Google Scholar
- WHO (2003) Diet, nutrition, and the prevention of chronic diseases. Report of a Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation, GenevaGoogle Scholar