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Food systems are responsible for a third of global anthropogenic GHG emissions

Abstract

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.

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Fig. 1: GHG emissions from the food system in different sectors in 2015.
Fig. 2: Total GHG emissions and food-system data globally, and in developing and industrialized countries.
Fig. 3: Sankey diagram for GHG emissions from the food system in 2015.
Fig. 4: GHG emissions trends of the food system by sector.
Fig. 5: GHG emissions from the food system.

Data availability

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.

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Acknowledgements

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.

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M.C. and D.G. designed and developed the EDGAR-FOOD database; E.S., M.C. and F.M.-F. worked on the definition of food-system shares for all GHG emitting categories; A.L. designed the project, revised the methodology and identified the key messages of the manuscript; F.N.T. provided the FAO data and supported the discussion of the LULUC component; all authors helped in drafting the manuscript.

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Correspondence to M. Crippa or A. Leip.

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Peer review information Nature Food thanks Tasso Azevedo, Luke Spadavecchia and Berien Elbersen for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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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

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