People should ‘eat as little animal products as possible’ to fight climate change, scientists tell European Commission

Author: Maria Chiorando

Read Time:   |  8th July 2023

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Climate change has long been a factor for many people when it comes to diet and the decision to cut down on meat and dairy


Europeans should eat ‘as little animal products as possible’, to reduce their impact on climate change.

That is according to scientists who formally advise the European Commission on food and agriculture policy.

The comment came from the chair of the Science Advice for Policy by European Academies (SAPEA) Working Group, Professor Erik Mathijs, as the group published its latest report, Towards Sustainable Food Consumption.

The European Commission requested the report to support the revision of the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy, the Commission’s flagship agri-food initiative which was designed to make food systems more sustainable and healthy.

If the bloc is to reduce its environmental impact, it must urgently shift to plant-based diets, the report says, describing the reduction of animal product consumption as ‘the key mitigation option’ when it comes to tackling climate change.

The report also emphasises the importance of plant-based diets in combating biodiversity loss, obesity and noncommunicable diseases.

Climate change and diet

SAPEA has highlighted that animal-sourced foods have been generally found to have substantially higher environmental impact than plant-based foods.

And it noted that switching towards plant-based diets has greater emissions-reduction potential than switching to organic foods.

In supporting this assertion, the organisation cited a recent modelling study for Italian school meals (based on life-cycle analysis).

The study found the emissions reductions potential of procuring 100 per cent organic foods is in the order of 11–15 per cent, while a switch to vegetarian meals results in a 20–32 per cent decrease.

Alongside highlighting the importance of transitioning towards plant heavy diets, the report highlighted other policy interventions to help fight climate change.

These included disruptive measures like taxes, bans, and product reformulations, which it says could drive changes in behaviour and help create food environments which could prioritise healthy and sustainable choices.


‘A crucial solution’

Speaking about the report, pro-plant-based global food awareness organisation ProVeg released a statement praising SAPEA.

Lucia Hortelano, EU Policy Manager at ProVeg, said: “As an organisation dedicated to raising awareness about the positive impact of plant-based diets, we applaud the report by SAPEA.

“It is encouraging to see the acknowledgment of plant-based diets as a crucial solution to some of our most pressing problems.”

She continued: “We really hope the European Commission takes this advice from their scientific advisors seriously and implements respective policy measures to help more Europeans shift to plant-based diets.”

ProVeg also commented on the other policy measures outlined by SAPEA, saying it believes implementing such changes ‘can play a crucial role in accelerating the transition to plant-based diets and making them more accessible to all’.

Are you aware of how much your diet can affect the planet? Check out the facts here, and find out how going vegan impacts the environment and our health

Featured photo © coldsnowstorm via Getty Images

Written by

Maria Chiorando

Maria is an editor and journalist. Her work has been published by the Huffington Post, the Guardian, TechnoBuffalo, Plant Based News, and Kent on Sunday among other national and regional titles.

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