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Mitigation potential and global health impacts from emissions pricing of food commodities

Abstract

The projected rise in food-related greenhouse gas emissions could seriously impede efforts to limit global warming to acceptable levels. Despite that, food production and consumption have long been excluded from climate policies, in part due to concerns about the potential impact on food security. Using a coupled agriculture and health modelling framework, we show that the global climate change mitigation potential of emissions pricing of food commodities could be substantial, and that levying greenhouse gas taxes on food commodities could, if appropriately designed, be a health-promoting climate policy in high-income countries, as well as in most low- and middle-income countries. Sparing food groups known to be beneficial for health from taxation, selectively compensating for income losses associated with tax-related price increases, and using a portion of tax revenues for health promotion are potential policy options that could help avert most of the negative health impacts experienced by vulnerable groups, whilst still promoting changes towards diets which are more environmentally sustainable.

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Figure 1: Impacts of GHG taxes on food prices, consumption, and GHG emissions.
Figure 2: Regional health impacts of levying GHG taxes on food commodities.

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Acknowledgements

M.S., P.S., M.R. and H.C.J.G. acknowledge funding from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food. D.M.-D’C., S.R. and K.W. undertook this work as a part of the Global Futures and Strategic Foresight Program (GFSF), a CGIAR initiative led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM), and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS).

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M.S. designed the study and conducted the initial analysis. M.S., P.S., D.M.-D’C. and S.R. contributed model components. M.S. wrote the manuscript, with contributions from H.C.J.G. All authors analysed the results and commented on the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Marco Springmann.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Springmann, M., Mason-D’Croz, D., Robinson, S. et al. Mitigation potential and global health impacts from emissions pricing of food commodities. Nature Clim Change 7, 69–74 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3155

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