According to a new study published by ScienceDaily, eating a vegan diet could be much more environmentally friendly than consuming local products. With regards to eating habits in the European Union, meat and dairy products are responsible for the “lion’s share” of greenhouse gas emissions, the report says.
According to the study, the average EU citizen has an environmental footprint of 1070 kg of CO2 equivalent per year, if all emissions from production, land-use change and international transport are taken into account. This is roughly the same amount of emissions generated by driving a car over 6,000 kilometres.
Another result was that meat and dairy products account for more than 75% of emissions in Europe. Livestock farming directly generates emissions, but it also contributes to the clearing of forests to grow animal feed, often outside the EU. Somewhat surprisingly, emissions from international trade were also found to be marginal compared to other sources.
“Tracking greenhouse gas emissions from food production is very complicated and we need better methods. Our aim in the study was to better understand the climate impact of EU diets and the impact of international trade on these emissions,” says Helsinki Vilmadie, PhD student at Sandström University, who conducted the study as part of the IIASA Young Scientists Summer Program.
The new study could be useful for decision-makers seeking a more accurate quantification of greenhouse gas emissions. It also highlights the need to better monitor the impact of imported food. In particular, this study highlights the impact of imported animal feed.
The research also provides more information for climate-conscious consumers and strengthens previous research that shows that eating fewer meat and dairy products is one of the most important measures individuals can take to reduce their environmental footprint.