Shifting food consumption to mitigate climate change is critical to fulfilling the Paris Agreement, but how?

Shifting food consumption to mitigate climate change is critical to fulfilling the Paris Agreement, but how?

Most attention to climate change mitigation in the agriculture sector has focused on technical and policy options for changing production rather than consumption. Yet significant opportunities for mitigation exist in shifting food consumption patterns. In many cases these options could also improve health, food security and other environmental outcomes.

Measures include:

  • consumption taxes and subsidies
  • health promotion initiatives
  • product labelling and certification initiatives
  • reducing food loss and waste through changes in policy, technology, or value chains

Key messages:

  • reducing emissions by changing consumption of foods with large greenhouse gas emissions could have a major impact on climate change. Yet past efforts to change diets through public policy have had mixed results, suggesting that recent estimates of technical mitigation potential likely exceed feasible reductions in emissions
  • shifting consumption away from livestock products is a major opportunity for reducing emissions driven by consumption demand. In some contexts, this could also provide health, food security and other environmental benefits
  • packages of policy mechanisms and interventions involving health, nutrition, efficiency and sustainability in supply chains will be more effective in achieving dietary change than any one measure
  • focusing on reducing food loss and waste in high potential areas and involving key value chain actors can increase returns on efforts to mitigate climate change and improve food security
  • private sector investment in reducing food loss and waste requires an enabling environment, support for development of commercially viable investments, and increased awareness among financial institutions of investment opportunities
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