Among the world’s 20 most industrialized countries, only India and Indonesia are implementing a low carbon emissions diet to meet Paris’s climate targets, according to a report published Thursday. AArgentina, Brazil, Canada, Germany, and the United States are among the countries that excessively exceed the level of carbon emissions associated with sustainable food, largely due to high consumption of red meat and dairy products.
“This report clearly shows that food consumption in the G20 countries is not sustainable and will require up to 7.4 Earths if adopted globally,” said Joao Campari from the World Wildlife Fund.
Rich countries consume more red meat and milk than those listed in their country’s nutritional guidelines and far more than experts say is sustainable for the planet.
Diet Report for a Better Future, published by EAT, a non-profit organization based in Norway, focuses on national dietary guidelines and consumption levels Country group 20 (G20). This group consists of 19 of the strongest and largest countries in the world plus the European Union.
“This report shows the food system has a long way to go in providing a diet that achieves health and well-being within planetary boundaries. But the good news is that there are many governments, businesses and citizens can do now to make this happen, build on existing actions to bringing a win-win for all, “said Professor Corinna Hawkes, director of the University of London’s Center for Food Policy.
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Sustainable food production can prevent a pandemic
The Paris climate agreement aims to reduce the rise in global temperatures by 1.5 degrees Celsius. “Print food” emissions produced by the G20 countries, which account for around 64% of the world’s population, currently create 75% of total global food-related emissions.
The issue of wasted food is very important among the richest countries in the world, said the report’s lead author, Brent Loken, who added that rich countries are currently throwing away too much food.
“The current pandemic shows how damaged our food system is,” he added.
“The food we eat and how we produce it is also a major driver in the emergence of deadly viruses such as COVID-19. The shift towards a healthy and sustainable diet will reduce the risk of a pandemic in the future,” Loken said.
“Pandemics are a manifestation of our broken relationship with nature and how we produce and consume food is at the core of this,” Campari added.
Red meat and milk are to blame
Around 40% of carbon emissions from global food production come from livestock and food waste, with the remainder mainly generated by rice production, the use of fertilizers, land conversion and deforestation to accommodate commercial crops.
Therefore, red meat and dairy products are some of the most unsustainable and most consumed foods in the G20 countries.
The report also identified that many countries even have national dietary guidelines for red meat and milk that exceed Planet Health Diet guidelines. Germany, for example, recommends 50 grams of red meat a day; the average consumption is actually almost 110 grams. Global guidelines recommend a maximum of 28 grams.
Argentina and the United States are among the most unsustainable food consumers in the G20.
Meanwhile, almost all countries lack food consumption of nuts and beans.
“National dietary guidelines are levers that countries can use to drive much needed transformation towards a healthier and more sustainable diet, and, ultimately, a more resilient food system,” Loken said.
Guidelines in most G20 countries also determine food production and regulation, making it important to limit emissions.
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