4.3 How can we tackle GHG emissions in the food system?

4.3.1 What are the possible options?

There are three main pathways available for reducing GHG emissions from the food system

Produce differently
Produce food with less impact
Associated with concepts such as sustainable intensification, ‘closing the yield gap’ and climate smart agriculture

Consume differently
Consume less GHG-intensive food
Waste less food
Encourage sustainable healthy diets

Rebalance the system
Reduce system inequity
Improve food access and availability for all


Different interest groups & stakeholders place greater or lesser emphasis on these approaches.

The challenge can be described as follows: food-related GHG emissions need to be reduced; at the same time we need to produce enough food to feed a growing population, whose demand for GHG emission-intensive foods (such as meat) is expected to rise.

Based on this brief summary of the situation, three 3 broad approaches to mitigating food-related GHG emissions can be identified:

  • Production-side mitigation, focusing on producing more food for less environmental impact, increasing farming efficiency and minimising emissions throughout the food chain.
  • Consumption-side mitigation, focusing on consuming less GHG-intensive foods, whilst at the same time seeking to align health and environmental sustainability objectives.
  • System transformation, focusing on addressing system inequity and increasing affordability and accessibility of food for those currently food insecure.

Different stakeholders, actors and interest groups place emphasis to greater and lesser extents on these approaches, and within each approach there are differing degrees of consensus and disagreement. Each of these approaches is discussed in more detail later in this chapter.

4.3.2 Who are the stakeholders involved?

Who are the stakeholders

  • Livestock & food industry
  • Civil society organisations (including environmental, animal rights/welfare groups, public health campaigners etc.)
  • Consumers and citizens (meat-eaters, vegetarians, vegans etc.)
  • People with specific dietary interests (e.g. religious, ethical, health-conscious, etc.)
  • Vets
  • Ethicists
  • International development community
  • CGIAR (Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research)
  • UN organisations (e.g. FAO, WHO, UNEP)

There are many different stakeholders from within the mainstream food industry, alternative food movement, NGOs, ethicists, health groups, research communities and policy makers, all of whom have an interest in the food system’s future evolution. Among these stakeholders, interest groups will place importance on different aspects of the three general approaches mentioned. For example, vegans might be more likely to emphasise consuming less meat as a GHG mitigation approach, whereas the livestock industry may be more supportive of production-side efficiencies. Evidently institutions and individuals may not stick rigidly to these categories and may adopt elements from the three different perspectives. Nevertheless, disagreements persist throughout the topics discussed in this chapter.