The new findings show that more than a third—34%—of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions are generated by food systems. They also show that food generates an average of 2 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions per person annually.
The data indicate which elements of our food production processes are most harmful, showing that while the way we use land accounts for most emissions, food distribution and processing methods have become markedly more energy intensive since the 1990s.
Lead researchers Adrian Leip and Monica Crippa, at the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) at Ispra in Italy, spent a year compiling the database, named EDGAR-FOOD, and touted as "the first global food emission inventory." They hope that the research, which involved the creation of a new database covering all aspects of food production, will help policymakers and institutions to more accurately target specific segments of the food industry in the global effort to cut carbon.
"EU citizens expect sustainable food with low greenhouse gas footprints," Leip told Forbes.com. "Our hope is that EDGAR-FOOD will be helpful to identify where action to reduce food system greenhouse gas emissions is most effective."
Transparent, robust and detailed data, Leip said, were needed for decision makers to understand the complexity of food systems in order to take the appropriate measures to drive down emissions.
"The share of greenhouse gas emissions linked to energy use and industrial processing is increasing," Leip said. "The food system will therefore need to invest in energy efficiency and decarbonization technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in addition to land-based mitigation technologies, within and outside the farm gate."
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