A dietary shift from animal-based foods to plant-based foods in high-income nations could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from direct agricultural production and increase carbon sequestration if resulting spared land was restored to its antecedent natural vegetation. We estimate this double effect by simulating the adoption of the EAT–Lancet planetary health diet by 54 high-income nations representing 68% of global gross domestic product and 17% of population. Our results show that such dietary change could reduce annual agricultural production emissions of high-income nations’ diets by 61% while sequestering as much as 98.3 (55.6–143.7) GtCO2 equivalent, equal to approximately 14 years of current global agricultural emissions until natural vegetation matures. This amount could potentially fulfil high-income nations’ future sum of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) obligations under the principle of equal per capita CDR responsibilities. Linking land, food, climate and public health policy will be vital to harnessing the opportunities of a double climate dividend.
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We thank N. Ramankutty and L. L. Sloat for providing us the latest pastureland map data in the year 2010. The contribution of Z.S. was funded by the China Scholarship Council (201706040080). The contribution of M.B. was funded by the European Research Council (grant agreement number 725525) and the Austrian Science Fund (project number P 31598_G31). The contribution of S.A.S.-L. to this work was supported by the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program under grant no. DGE-1747503. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Nature Food thanks Manfred Lenzen, Rylie Pelton, Christian Reynolds, Michael Clark and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Supplementary Methods, Discussion and Figs. 1–11.
Supplementary Table 1: crop-specific parameters used to calculate AGBC and BGBC. Supplementary Table 2: mapping relationship between FABIO sectors and EAT–Lancet diet groups. Supplementary Table 3: food and energy composition of the EAT–Lancet diet. Supplementary Table 4: country code and ISO3 for countries of FABIO. Supplementary Table 5: mapping relationship of countries between FABIO and the International Fertilizer Association (IFA). Supplementary Table 6: mapping relationship of crops between FABIO and IFA. Supplementary Table 7: mapping relationship of countries between FABIO and environmentally extended input–output database (EXIOBASE). Supplementary Table 8: mapping relationship of sectors between FABIO and EXIOBASE. Supplementary Table 9: Per capita daily food difference between national average diet and EAT–Lancet diet. Supplementary Table 10: time horizon to PNV from existing studies. Supplementary Table 11: percentage of carbon sequestration due to dietary change fulfilling national CDR obligations in high-income countries.
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Sun, Z., Scherer, L., Tukker, A. et al. Dietary change in high-income nations alone can lead to substantial double climate dividend. Nat Food 3, 29–37 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-021-00431-5