This paper looks at the climate impacts of dietary shift towards plant-based foods in high-income nations. It finds that adoption of the EAT-Lancet diet in 54 countries could both reduce annual agricultural production emissions from those countries by 61%, and spare land that could sequester carbon equivalent to 14 years of current global agricultural emissions, through restoration to the natural vegetation associated with today’s climate in each location.
A dietary shift from animal-based foods to plant-based foods in high-income nations could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from direct agricultural production and increase carbon sequestration if resulting spared land was restored to its antecedent natural vegetation. We estimate this double effect by simulating the adoption of the EAT–Lancet planetary health diet by 54 high-income nations representing 68% of global gross domestic product and 17% of population. Our results show that such dietary change could reduce annual agricultural production emissions of high-income nations’ diets by 61% while sequestering as much as 98.3 (55.6–143.7) GtCO2 equivalent, equal to approximately 14 years of current global agricultural emissions until natural vegetation matures. This amount could potentially fulfil high-income nations’ future sum of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) obligations under the principle of equal per capita CDR responsibilities. Linking land, food, climate and public health policy will be vital to harnessing the opportunities of a double climate dividend.
Sun, Z., Scherer, L., Tukker, A., Spawn-Lee, S.A., Bruckner, M., Gibbs, H.K. and Behrens, P., 2022. Dietary change in high-income nations alone can lead to substantial double climate dividend. Nature Food, pp.1-9.