Sometimes it’s difficult to believe that the falafel wrap on your plate has the ability to do anything other than ease the hunger pangs in your stomach. But a new report makes clear that plant-based food has the power to heal the world.
A study in the journal Nature Food shows that if 54 high-income countries were to shift towards a mostly plant-based diet, then greenhouse gases could be slashed by an astonishing 61 per cent.
And more than that, greening up our food system could free up agricultural land that can then be put to better use soaking up carbon from the atmosphere – what the researchers call a “double climate dividend”.
The study – Dietary change in high-income nations alone can lead to substantial double climate dividend – shows that rich nations could cut their agricultural emissions by almost two-thirds if they were to adopt the EAT-Lancet planetary health diet. That would free up an area of land larger than the European Union that, if allowed to revert to its natural state, could sequester almost 100 billion tonnes of carbon, or 14 years’ worth of emissions from farming.
Such a move, the researchers say, “could potentially fulfil high-income countries’ CO2 removal obligations needed to limit warming to 1.5C under equality sharing principles”. Roughly half the carbon benefit from the double climate dividend would be seen in the US, France, Australia and Germany.
Low and middle-income countries such as Brazil, India and Botswana would also see the benefit. Their meat exports would fall as demand from richer countries falls, reducing their own agricultural emissions and freeing up land to trap carbon.