The role of trade in the greenhouse gas footprints of EU diets

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The role of trade in the greenhouse gas footprints of EU diets


Countries reveal different GHG footprints of diets across the European Union.

Average GHG footprint of EU food supply is 1070 kg CO2-eq. cap −1 yr −1 .

Consumption of animal products has largest effect on the GHG intensity of diets.

LUC emissions can be a large source of emissions for certain importing countries.

Production-based emission calculations underestimate GHG footprints of EU diets.

International trade presents a challenge for measuring the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission footprint of human diets, because imported food is produced with different production efficiencies and sourcing regions differ in land use histories. We analyze how trade and countries of origin impact GHG footprint calculation for EU food consumption. We find that food consumption footprints can differ considerably between the EU countries with estimates varying from 610 to 1460 CO2-eq. cap −1 yr −1 . These estimates include the GHG emissions from primary production, international trade and land use change. The share of animal products in the diet is the most important factor determining the footprint of food consumption. Embedded land use change in imports also plays a major role. Transition towards more plant-based diets has a great potential for climate change mitigation.

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