As part of the project NorthWesternPaths, CICERO researchers are studying how changes in diet, food waste, agriculture and forestry could help reduce Norway’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The global food system is responsible for around one-third of the world’s human-made greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture, forestry and other land-use account for a total of 23% of the emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on Climate Change and Land, which was published in 2019.
Moreover, every year, more than 30 percent of the food produced around the globe is lost or wasted, the report states.
“The way we consume and produce food has a huge impact on emissions globally, so if you want to reduce global emissions, food is an important part of the answer,” says Anne Sophie Daloz, a senior researcher at CICERO Center for International Climate Research who is involved in the project.
“We need a collective, global effort to reduce these emissions and to make food and land-use systems more sustainable. However, different solutions will apply to different countries. We therefore need to understand how Norway can contribute to this global effort, and that is what we are trying to do in this project,” Daloz says.
National plans for sustainable food and land-use systems are needed
Although plans for the food and land-use systems exist, few countries have adopted detailed plans for how to make their food and land-use more sustainable, and to put them on track to reaching the goals of the Paris Climate Treaty and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to Daloz.
“Preliminary studies suggest that achieving climate, sustainability and health targets in Europe will require simultaneous actions on sustainable intensification of food, reducing food waste and loss, dietary shifts to less environmentally harmful foods, and strict management of land for carbon capture and biodiversity conservation,“ Daloz says.
“The ambition of the NorthWesternPaths project is to develop new knowledge on how Norway and the other Nordic countries can make their food and land-use systems more climate and environmentally friendly, and thereby help solve the climate crisis,” she adds.
Studying the climate impact of reduced food waste and dietary changes
In the project, Daloz and the other researchers involved – which are based in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Germany – are studying various scenarios including changes in the food system, to analyse their different climate and environmental impacts.
“We are, for example, studying what happens with emissions if we reduce the amount of red meat that people eat, and add more vegetables, fish and lentils to their diet. We are also looking at the impact of reducing food waste,” Daloz says.
“By doing this, we are developing new knowledge about what can be done to cut emissions and about how much emissions can be reduced through different food and land-use changes,” she adds.
Looking into issues related to agriculture, bioenergy, food security, diets, forestry, water and biodiversity, the researchers involved in the project will also study how we can reach both national and global climate and environmental aims from the current situation, and what the best policies to this end are.
They will also identify the preferred pathways to sustainable and healthy food and land use systems and assess potential international trade and spill-over effects of one country’s national policies on land-use and food systems in other countries.
The project will be completed in autumn 2022, and it is still too early to present any conclusive results. However, initial findings of the NorthWesternPaths project have been included in the 2020 report of the FABLE (Food, Agriculture, Biodiversity, Land and Energy) consortium, which is available here.
Facts about the NorthWesternPaths project
Full name of project: NorthWesternPaths: Scenarios and pathways toward sustainable land-use and food production for Western and the Northern European countries as part of the global FABLE Consortium.
Aim of the project: Develop new knowledge for how the Nordic countries can make their food and land-use more climate and environmentally friendly, and thereby help solve the climate crisis.
Duration and funding: The NorthWesternPaths project is led by the Stockholm Resilience Institute and is financed the Research Council of Norway, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and the Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development (Fomas). The project has a duration of three years, from September 2019 until September 2022.
Partners in the project:
- Norway: CICERO Center for International Climate Research, EAT
- Sweden: Stockholm Resilience Centre, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and RISE Research Institute of Sweden
- Finland: Aalto University and the European Forest Institute
- Germany: University of Hamburg