We have developed a new global food emissions database (EDGAR-FOOD) estimating greenhouse gas (GHG; CO2, CH4, N2O, fluorinated gases) emissions for the years 1990–2015, building on the Emissions Database of Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR), complemented with land use/land-use change emissions from the FAOSTAT emissions database. EDGAR-FOOD provides a complete and consistent database in time and space of GHG emissions from the global food system, from production to consumption, including processing, transport and packaging. It responds to the lack of detailed data for many countries by providing sectoral contributions to food-system emissions that are essential for the design of effective mitigation actions. In 2015, food-system emissions amounted to 18 Gt CO2 equivalent per year globally, representing 34% of total GHG emissions. The largest contribution came from agriculture and land use/land-use change activities (71%), with the remaining were from supply chain activities: retail, transport, consumption, fuel production, waste management, industrial processes and packaging. Temporal trends and regional contributions of GHG emissions from the food system are also discussed.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Open Access articles citing this article.
npj Science of Food Open Access 10 October 2022
CABI Agriculture and Bioscience Open Access 29 September 2022
Greenhouse gas emissions from global production and use of nitrogen synthetic fertilisers in agriculture
Scientific Reports Open Access 25 August 2022
Subscribe to Nature+
Get immediate online access to Nature and 55 other Nature journal
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $9.92 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
The data that support the findings of this study are available as Excel spreadsheets alongside the paper. Moreover, they are available on the EDGAR website and can be accessed at the following link: https://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/overview.php?v=EDGAR_FOOD. When citing the EDGAR-FOOD dataset, please specify the following link108: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.13476666. All figures present in the manuscript are also available in figshare under the same doi as the EDGAR-FOOD dataset. Source data are provided with this paper.
Zurek, M. et al. Assessing sustainable food and nutrition security of the EU food system—an integrated approach. Sustainability https://doi.org/10.3390/su10114271 (2018).
Monforti-Ferrario, F. et al. Energy Use in the EU Food Sector: State of Play and Opportunities for Improvement EUR 27247 EN – 2015 (Publications Office of the European Union, 2015).
Nutrition and Food Systems. A Report by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security (HELPE, 2017).
Leip, A., Bodirsky, B. L. & Kugelberg, S. The role of nitrogen in achieving sustainable food systems for healthy diets. Glob. Food Secur. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2020.100408 (2020).
Tubiello, F. N. & Conchedda, G. The Share of Agriculture in Total GHG Emissions. Global, Regional and Country Trends, 1990–2017 FAOSTAT Analytical Briefs Series (1) (FAO, 2020).
Poore, J. & Nemecek, T. Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science 360, 987–992 (2018).
Clune, S., Crossin, E. & Verghese, K. Systematic review of greenhouse gas emissions for different fresh food categories. J. Clean. Prod. 140, 766–783 (2017).
Energy-Smart Food for People and Climate (FAO, 2011).
Bajželj, B. et al. Importance of food-demand management for climate mitigation. Nat. Clim. Change 4, 924–929 (2014).
Vermeulen, S. J., Campbell, B. M. & Ingram, J. S. I. Climate change and food systems. Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour. 37, 195–222 (2012).
Mbow, C. et al. Food Security in Climate Change and Land: an IPCC Special Report on Climate Change, Desertification, Land Degradation, Sustainable Land Management, Food Security, and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Terrestrial Ecosystems (IPCC, 2019).
Rosenzweig, C. et al. Climate change responses benefit from a global food system approach. Nat. Food 1, 94–97 (2020).
Beylot, A. et al. Assessing the environmental impacts of EU consumption at macro-scale. J. Clean. Prod. 216, 382–393 (2019).
Sala, S. et al. Consumption and Consumer Footprint: Methodology and Results (Publications Office of the European Union, 2019).
FAOSTAT Agri-Environmental Indicators, Emissions Shares (FAO, 2020); http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/EM
Tubiello, F. N. et al. The contribution of agriculture, forestry and other land use activities to global warming, 1990–2012. Glob. Change Biol. 21, 2655–2660 (2015).
Tubiello, F. N. in Encyclopedia of Food Security and Sustainability (eds Ferranti, P. et al.) 196–205 (Elsevier, 2019).
Wood, R. et al. Growth in environmental footprints and environmental impacts embodied in trade: resource efficiency indicators from EXIOBASE3. J. Indust. Ecol. 22, 553–564 (2018).
Bruckner, M., Fischer, G., Tramberend, S. & Giljum, S. Measuring telecouplings in the global land system: a review and comparative evaluation of land footprint accounting methods. Ecol. Econ. 114, 11–21 (2015).
FAOSTAT 2015 Data (FAO, 2015); http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#rankings/countries_by_commodity
FAOSTAT Data (FAO, 2019); http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data
Kanter, D. R. et al. Nitrogen pollution policy beyond the farm. Nat. Food 1, 27–32 (2020).
Bora, G. C., Nowatzki, J. F. & Roberts, D. C. Energy savings by adopting precision agriculture in rural USA. Energy Sustain. Soc. 2, 22 (2012).
Pelletier, N. et al. Energy intensity of agriculture and food systems. Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour. 36, 223–246 (2011).
Beckman, J., Borchers, A. & Jones, C. A. Agriculture’s Supply and Demand for Energy and Energy Products EIB-112 (US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, 2013).
State of the Art on Energy Efficiency in Agriculture. Country Data on Energy Consumption in Different Agroproduction Sectors in the European Countries (AgrEE, 2012); http://www.acrres.nl/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/AGREE_2.1-State-of-the-Art-of-EE-in-Agr.pdf
Oteros-Rozas, E., Ruiz-Almeida, A., Aguado, M., González, J. A. & Rivera-Ferre, M. G. A social–ecological analysis of the global agrifood system. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 116, 26465–26473 (2019).
Berners-Lee, M., Kennelly, C., Watson, R. & Hewitt, C. N. Current global food production is sufficient to meet human nutritional needs in 2050 provided there is radical societal adaptation. Elementa https://doi.org/10.1525/elementa.310 (2018).
Vermeulen, S. et al. Climate change, agriculture and food security: a global partnership to link research and action for low-income agricultural producers and consumers. Curr. Opin. Environ. Sustain. 4, 128–133 (2012).
Kreidenweis, U., Lautenbach, S. & Koellner, T. Regional or global? The question of low-emission food sourcing addressed with spatial optimization modelling. Environ. Model. Softw. 82, 128–141 (2016).
Schmitt, E., Dominique, B. & Six, J. Assessing the degree of localness of food value chains. Agroecol. Sustain. Food Syst. 42, 573–598 (2018).
Schmitt, E. et al. Comparing the sustainability of local and global food products in Europe. J. Clean. Prod. 165, 346–359 (2017).
Mundler, P. & Rumpus, L. The energy efficiency of local food systems: a comparison between different modes of distribution. Food Policy 37, 609–615 (2012).
Behfar, A., Yuill, D. & Yu, Y. Supermarket system characteristics and operating faults (RP-1615). Sci. Technol. Built Environ. 24, 1104–1113 (2018).
Bahn, R. A. & Abebe, G. K. Food retail expansion patterns in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa: institutional and regional perspectives. Agribusiness https://doi.org/10.1002/agr.21634 (2019).
Weatherspoon, D. D. & Reardon, T. The rise of supermarkets in Africa: implications for agrifood systems and the rural poor. Dev. Policy Rev. 21, 333–355 (2003).
Reardon, T., Timmer, C. P. & Minten, B. Supermarket revolution in Asia and emerging development strategies to include small farmers. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 12332–12337 (2012).
James, S. J. & James, C. The food cold-chain and climate change. Food Res. Int. 43, 1944–1956 (2010).
Hubacek, K. & Feng, K. Comparing apples and oranges: some confusion about using and interpreting physical trade matrices versus multi-regional input–output analysis. Land Use Policy 50, 194–201 (2016).
Reardon, T. et al. Rapid transformation of food systems in developing regions: highlighting the role of agricultural research & innovations. Agric. Syst. 172, 47–59 (2019).
Lapola, D. M. et al. Pervasive transition of the Brazilian land-use system. Nat. Clim. Change 4, 27–35 (2014).
Fanzo, J. From big to small: the significance of smallholder farms in the global food system. Lancet Planet. Health 1, e15–e16 (2017).
Ricciardi, V., Ramankutty, N., Mehrabi, Z., Jarvis, L. & Chookolingo, B. How much of the world’s food do smallholders produce? Glob. Food Secur. 17, 64–72 (2018).
Terwase, I. & Madu, A. The impact of rice production, consumption and importation in Nigeria: the political economy perspectives. Int. J. Sust. Dev. World Policy 3, 90–99 (2014).
Africa Sustainable Livestock 2050 - Country Brief: Ethiopia I7347EN/1/06.17 (FAO, 2017).
Shaddick, G., Thomas, M. L., Mudu, P., Ruggeri, G. & Gumy, S. Half the world’s population are exposed to increasing air pollution. npj Clim. Atmos. Sci. 3, 23 (2020).
Sanz-Cobena, A. et al. Research meetings must be more sustainable. Nat. Food 1, 187–189 (2020).
Springmann, M. et al. Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits. Nature 562, 519–525 (2018).
Aleksandrowicz, L., Green, R., Joy, E. J. M., Smith, P. & Haines, A. The impacts of dietary change on greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and health: a systematic review. PLoS ONE 11, e0165797 (2016).
Willett, W. et al. Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. Lancet 393, 447–492 (2019).
Crippa, M. et al. Fossil CO2 and GHG Emissions of All World Countries - 2019 Report EUR 29849 EN (Publications Office of the European Union, 2019); https://doi.org/10.2760/687800
FAOSTAT Land Use Emissions – Land Use, Forest Land (FAO, 2019); http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/GF
IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, IPCC-TSU NGGIP, IGES, 2006).
Crippa, M. et al. Gridded emissions of air pollutants for the period 1970–2012 within EDGAR v4.3.2. Earth Syst. Sci. Data 10, 1987–2013 (2018).
Janssens-Maenhout, G. et al. EDGAR v4.3.2 Global Atlas of the three major greenhouse gas emissions for the period 1970–2012. Earth Syst. Sci. Data 11, 959–1002 (2019).
Energy Balance Statistics for 1970–2015 (IEA, 2017); http://www.iea.org/
Federici, S., Tubiello, F. N., Salvatore, M., Jacobs, H. & Schmidhuber, J. New estimates of CO2 forest emissions and removals: 1990–2015. For. Ecol. Manage. 352, 89–98 (2015).
Tubiello, F. N. et al. Carbon emissions and removals by forests: new estimates 1990–2020. Earth Syst. Sci. Data Discuss. https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2020-203 (2020).
FAOSTAT Land Use Emissions – Cropland (FAO, 2020); http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/GC
FAOSTAT Land Use Emissions – Grassland (FAO, 2020); http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/GG
Tubiello, N. F., Biancalani, R., Salvatore, M., Rossi, S. & Conchedda, G. A worldwide assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from drained organic soils. Sustainability https://doi.org/10.3390/su8040371 (2016).
Prosperi, P. et al. New estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from biomass burning and peat fires using MODIS Collection 6 burned areas. Climatic Change 161, 415–432 (2020).
FAOSTAT Land Use Emissions – Burning Biomass (FAO, 2020); http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/GI
Rossi, S. et al. FAOSTAT estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from biomass and peat fires. Climatic Change 135, 699–711 (2016).
Conchedda, G. & Tubiello, F. N. Drainage of organic soils and GHG emissions: Validation with country data. Earth Syst. Sci. Data Discuss. 2020, 1–47 (2020).
Fertilizer use by crop. In FAO Fertiliser and Plant Nutrition Bulletin Ch. 17 (FAO, 2006).
Lassaletta, L. et al. Nitrogen use in the global food system: past trends and future trajectories of agronomic performance, pollution, trade, and dietary demand. Environ. Res. Lett. 11, 095007 (2016).
Leip, A. et al. Impacts of European livestock production: nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorus and greenhouse gas emissions, land-use, water eutrophication and biodiversity. Environ. Res. Lett. 10, 115004 (2015).
The Promotion of Non-Food Crops IP/B/AGRI/ST/2005-02 (European Parliament, 2005); https://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2004_2009/documents/dv/studynon-foodcrops_/studynon-foodcrops_%20en.pdf
Glibert, P. M., Harrison, J., Heil, C. & Seitzinger, S. Escalating worldwide use of urea—a global change contributing to coastal eutrophication. Biogeochemistry 77, 441–463 (2006).
Production of Ammonia, Nitric Acid, Urea and N-fertilizer (Environment Agency Austria, 2017).
Fertilizer Production (Sensotech, 2016); https://tecnovaht.it/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/LSM252_01_03m_LiquiSonic_fertilizer_production.pdf
Steel Statistical Yearbooks 1978 to 1999 (World Steel Assocation, 1999); https://www.worldsteel.org/steel-by-topic/statistics/steel-statistical-yearbook.html
Steel Statistical Yearbooks 2000 to 2009 (World Steel Assocation, 2009); https://www.worldsteel.org/steel-by-topic/statistics/steel-statistical-yearbook.html
Steel Statistical Yearbooks 2010 to 2020 (World Steel Assocation, 2019); https://www.worldsteel.org/steel-by-topic/statistics/steel-statistical-yearbook.html
Analysis of the Industrial Sectors in the European Union. (EU-Merci, 2018); http://www.eumerci-portal.eu/documents/20182/38527/0+-+EU.pdf
Nangini, C. et al. A global dataset of CO2 emissions and ancillary data related to emissions for 343 cities. Sci. Data 6, 180280 (2019).
USGS Soda Ash Statistics and Information https://www.usgs.gov/centers/nmic/soda-ash-statistics-and-information (2016).
British Plastics Federation https://theconversation.com/the-world-of-plastics-in-numbers-100291 (2018).
Ryberg, M. W., Laurent, A. & Hauschild, M. Mapping of Global Plastics Value Chain and Plastics Losses to the Environment (UNEP, 2017) http://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/26745/mapping_plastics.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Unwrapping the Packaging Industry, Seven Factors for Success (EY, 2013) http://ifca.net.in/pdf/Management-stories-EY-Unwrapping-the-packaging-industry.pdf
Forestry/Forestry Production and Trade till 2016 (FAOSTAT Statistics Division of the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the UN, 2018); http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/FO
Global Material Flow Model (World Aluminum, 2018); http://www.world-aluminium.org/publications/?search=food&year=
Dalsøren, S. B. et al. Update on emissions and environmental impacts from the international fleet of ships: the contribution from major ship types and ports. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 9, 2171–2194 (2009).
Andersen, O. et al. CO2 emissions from the transport of China’s exported goods. Energy Policy 38, 5790–5798 (2010).
ComExt (Eurostat, 2015); https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/international-trade-in-goods/data/focus-on-comext
Food Wastage Footprint & Climate Change (FAO, 2015); http://www.fao.org/3/A-BB144E.PDF
Thomas, S. Drivers of Recent Energy Consumption Trends Across Sectors in EU28 (Publications Office of the European Union, 2018); https://ec.europa.eu/energy/sites/ener/files/energy_consumption_trends_workshop_report-september_2018.pdf
Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) (US Energy Information Administration, 2018); https://www.eia.gov/consumption/commercial/
Africa Energy Outlook (OECD/IEA, 2014) https://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/WEO2014_AfricaEnergyOutlook.pdf
Comparative Analysis of Fuels for Cooking: Life Cycle Environmental Impacts and Economic and Social Considerations (Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, ERG, 2017); https://www.cleancookingalliance.org/assets-facit/Comparative-Analysis-for-Fuels-FullReport.pdf
2019 Refinement to the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories: Volume 3, Industrial Processes and Product Use Ch. 7 (IPCC, 2019); https://www.ipcc-nggip.iges.or.jp/public/2019rf/index.html
EUROSTAT. Energy products used in the residential sector. https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=Energy_consumption_in_households#Energy_products_used_in_the_residential_sectorIPCC (2019)
Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) (US Energy Information Administration, 2015); https://www.eia.gov/consumption/residential/data/2015/index.php?view=consumption&src=%E2%80%B9%20Consumption%20%20%20%20%20%20Residential%20Energy%20Consumption%20Survey%20(RECS)-b1#undefined
Hoornweg, D. & Bhada-Tata, P. What a Waste. A Global Review of Solid Waste Management (World Bank, 2012).
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung e.V. Waste Profiling (Waste 2 Go, 2014).
World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision (UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, 2015).
Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventory. Volume 5: Waste (IPPC, 2006); http://www.ipcc-nggip.iges.or.jp/public/2006gl/vol5.html
Global Urban Indicators Database (UNHABITAT, 2016a).
World Atlas of Slum Evolution, 2015 (United Nations Human Settlements Program, UNHABITAT (2016b).
Population Living in Slums (World Bank, 2016) http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.POP.SLUM.UR.ZS
Slum Population as Percentage of Urban, Percentage (UN, 2015); http://mdgs.un.org/unsd/mdg/SeriesDetail.aspx?srid=710&crid=
Petrescu, A. M. R. et al. European anthropogenic AFOLU greenhouse gas emissions: a review and benchmark data. Earth Syst. Sci. Data 12, 961–1001 (2020).
Choulga, M. et al. Global anthropogenic CO2 emissions and uncertainties as prior for Earth system modelling and data assimilation. Earth Syst. Sci. Data Discuss. https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2020-68 (2020).
Solazzo, E. et al. Uncertainties in the EDGAR emission inventory of greenhouse gases. Preprint at Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss. https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2020-1102 (2020).
Bond, T. C. et al. A technology-based global inventory of black and organic carbon emissions from combustion. J. Geophys. Res. Atmos. https://doi.org/10.1029/2003jd003697 (2004).
Bergamaschi, P. et al. Top-down estimates of European CH4 and N2O emissions based on four different inverse models. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 15, 715–736 (2015).
Crippa, M. et al. EDGAR-FOOD data. figshare https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.13476666 (2021).
We are grateful to the EDGAR team (M. Crippa, D. Guizzardi, G. Oreggioni, E. Schaaf, M. Muntean, E. Solazzo, F. Pagani) for the work needed to publish the EDGARv5.0 dataset (https://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/overview.php?v=50_GHG). We appreciated the contribution of LULUC data by FAO through its FAOSTAT database (G. Conchedda and F. Tubiello), and the entire manuscript revision by J. Wilson. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of FAO.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Food thanks Tasso Azevedo, Luke Spadavecchia and Berien Elbersen for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Crippa, M., Solazzo, E., Guizzardi, D. et al. Food systems are responsible for a third of global anthropogenic GHG emissions. Nat Food 2, 198–209 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-021-00225-9
This article is cited by
CABI Agriculture and Bioscience (2022)
Renal Replacement Therapy (2022)
Consumer-driven strategies towards a resilient and sustainable food system following the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia
BMC Public Health (2022)
The cost of healthier and more sustainable food choices: Do plant-based consumers spend more on food?
Agricultural and Food Economics (2022)
What evidence exists on the effects of public policy interventions for achieving environmentally sustainable food consumption? A systematic map protocol
Environmental Evidence (2022)