“Food systems” were responsible for 34% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions in 2015, according to new research.
The study, published in Nature Food, presents EDGAR-FOOD – the first database to break down emissions from each stage of the food chain for every year from 1990 to 2015. The database also unpacks emissions by sector, greenhouse gas and country.
According to the study, 71% of food emissions in 2015 came from agriculture and “associated land use and land-use change activities” (LULUC).The rest stemmed from retail, transport, consumption, fuel production, waste management, industrial processes and packaging.
The study finds that CO2 accounts for roughly half of food-related emissions, while methane (CH4) makes up 35% – mainly from livestock production, farming and waste treatment.
Emissions from the retail sector are rising, the study finds, and increased by 3-4 times in Europe and the US between 1990 and 2015.
The authors also find that “food miles” contribute less to food emissions than packaging. The authors add that 96% of the emissions from transporting food come from local or regional transport by road and rail, rather than international transport.