Alice Garvey, Jonathan Norman, Anne Owen and John Barrett
The UK has committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, and the food system is increasingly recognised as a critical part of realising this scale of mitigation. Food-related emissions are ultimately driven by demand. We therefore present a scenario analysis of the mitigation potential from transformative demand-side interventions in the UK food system. We construct a hybrid physical input-output food system model, evaluating the effect on emissions of moderating calorific intake to that in the UK Government Dietary Recommendations, modal shifts in diets towards plant-derived proteins, and of reducing consumer food waste. We conclude that the UK could reduce absolute annual territorial Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 52% (from 2017 to 2050) in the most ambitious scenario, where dietary transitions are the single most effective measure with reductions of 22–44%. Demand-side mitigation is also well positioned to address the UK’s consumption-based food emissions, which are approximately 52% higher than current territorial emissions emitted in the UK. Well-designed and equitable policy is required to realise the full mitigation potential of these options, and to navigate multiple structural issues including food poverty and carbon leakage. However, the current culture of acceptability around pro-environmental dietary change in the UK has arguably created greater space for policy intervention on the demand-side. Novelties of the analysis include modelling a range of demand-side options using territorial and consumption-based emissions accounting, designing scenarios of dietary change which reflect recent trends towards sustainable consumption, and proposing up-to-date policy interventions. The implications of the analysis are highly transferable to other developed nations. A demand-side mitigation approach could feasibly implement the identified emissions savings whilst working towards a more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable food system.
- See our policy briefing based on this paper: Reducing the UK’s food footprint: Demand-side action for more palatable food emissions
Garvey, A., Norman, J.B., Owen, A. and Barrett, J. 2021. Towards net zero nutrition: the contribution of demand-side change to mitigating UK food emissions. Journal of Cleaner Production, 290: 125672. doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2020.125672Opens in a new tab
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