A new study provides a more comprehensive accounting of the greenhouse gas emissions from EU diets. It shows that meat and dairy products are responsible for the lion’s share of greenhouse emissions from the EU diet.
The average EU citizen has a food footprint of 1070 kg of CO2 equivalent per year when emissions from production, land use change and international transportation are taken into account, according to a new study published in the journal Global Food Security. That’s about the same amount as the emissions caused by around 6,000 km driven in one passenger vehicle according to the European Commission — and about a third more compared to production-based estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from food.
The study found that meat and dairy account for more than 75% of the impact from EU diets. That’s because meat and dairy production causes not only direct emissions from animal production, but also contributes to deforestation from cropland expansion for feed, which is often produced outside of the EU.
Perhaps surprisingly, the study found that emissions related to international trade were marginal in comparison to other sources.
“Tracking the greenhouse gas emissions of food production is extremely complicated, and we need better methods to do this. Our goal in the study was to better understand the climate impact of EU diets, and how international trade affects our accounting of these emissions,” says University of Helsinki doctoral student Vilma Sandström, who developed the study as part of the IIASA Young Scientists Summer Program.
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