This shift to a plant-based diet can help the world achieve its target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels and provide rich nations a “double climate dividend”, a new study has revealed.
According to the research, conducted by the Institute of Environmental Sciences, Leiden University (The Netherlands), if 54 high-income countries shift to a more plant-based diet, carbon emissions would be cut by 100 billion tonnes — equal to 14 years of global agricultural emissions.
The study further says that moving away from animal-based foods could free up an area of land larger than the entire European Union as livestock take up nearly 80 percent of global agricultural land despite producing less than 20 percent of the world’s supply of calories.
The 54 high-income nations represent 68 percent of the global gross domestic product and 17 percent of the population. These countries including the United States, France, Australia, and Germany would enjoy the “double climate dividend” of lower emissions and more land for capturing carbon because meat and dairy production and consumption are high here.
“Shifting from current dietary patterns in high-income nations to healthier alternatives with few or no animal products could simultaneously spare agricultural land for other uses,” says the study.
This would also help these nations achieve their carbon dioxide removal (CDR) obligations. However, the study also underlines that high-income nations will only be able to enjoy the “double climate dividend” if the land currently used for livestock rearing is used for agriculture.
“While a portion of this land may ultimately be used for various types of development and/or bioenergy, its use for intentional ecosystem restoration—a ‘natural climate solution —would represent a second additional carbon dividend from dietary change,” the study adds.
The research also points out that animal-based products drive 70 percent of food-system emissions in high-income countries but only 22 percent in low– or middle-income nations.