G20 carbon ‘food-print’ highest in meat-loving nations: Report

PARIS: If everyone alive ate steaks and dairy the way Brazilians and Americans do, we would need an extra five planets to feed the world, according to the first report to compare the carbon emissions from food consumption in Group of Twenty (G20) nations, released on Thursday (Jul 16).

Among the world's top economies, only the per capita carbon "food-prints" in India and Indonesia are low enough to ensure the Paris climate target of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the Diet for a Better Future report.

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In China, where sustained economic growth has boosted consumption of meat and imported foods, the average diet – on a planetary scale – would exceed the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold by nearly two-fold.

READ: The Big Read: Taking the climate fight beyond straws and tote bags — individual actions that matter

Producing food for Earth's 7.7 billion people is responsible for a quarter of the global carbon emissions that drive climate change.

About 40 per cent of that comes from livestock production and food waste, with the rest generated by rice production, fertiliser use, land conversion and deforestation to accommodate commercial crops.

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"Currently, individuals in a handful of countries are eating way too much of the wrong foods at the expense of the rest of the world," Brent Loken, global food lead at World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and lead author of the report, told AFP.

These imbalanced diets by a relative handful of rich countries are "to the detriment of climate, health and economies", he said.

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The report by EAT – an Oslo-based non-profit that has led peer-reviewed research on the nexus of diet, health and climate change – also rated G20 national dietary guidelines, projecting the carbon footprint they would produce if followed.

A "BROKEN FOOD SYSTEM"

Interestingly, this ranking roughly mirrors actual consumption.

Argentina tops the list with a diet exceeding climate thresholds nearly five-fold, followed by Canada, Brazil, the United States, Russia and Australia.

At the other end of the spectrum, the countries with the most climate-friendly dietary guidelines are Indonesia, India, South Korea, China and Japan.

"This report makes it possible for the first time to compare and track the carbon emissions baked into each country's national guidelines," said Corina Hawkes, director of the University of London's Centre for Food Policy.

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