Diets for a Better Future
Diets for a Better Future demonstrates the leading role G20 countries can and must take to realize the exponential changes required for a healthy and sustainable world. The report explores what a more equitable distribution across a global ‘carbon budget’ for food could look like.
This report by EAT investigates current food consumption patterns and the efficacy of national dietary guidelines in G20 countries compared to the Planetary Health Diet.
Through it, G20 countries are presented with clear opportunities to lead reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and realize the health and related economic benefits of shifting toward more healthy and sustainable diets.
Shifting National Dietary Guidelines
Most food consumption patterns in G20 countries are not aligned with those of a healthy flexitarian diet and most national dietary guidelines (NDGs) are not ambitious enough to bring food systems within planetary boundaries, including limiting global warming to 1.5°C. While countries like China and Indonesia have current consumption patterns aligned with the model necessary to protect health and the planet, maintaining the current patterns there and shifting in all other G20 countries is critical to protecting planet and people. This is important because NDGs are a necessary component of food policy and an essential first step to promoting healthy eating habits in a country often through educational programs or public awareness campaigns. If NDGs lack ambition or are incompatible with the latest science on human health and environmental sustainability, then this could influence national level food policy and individual food consumption.
Read Dr. Jonathan Foley's foreword to the report, explaining how the future of the food system will be central in shaping the future of our planet and our civilization.
Read the seven key observations drawn from the report.
G20 Leadership Critical for Ensuring Healthy Food for Humanity
Shifting diets and more ambitious national dietary guidelines in these countries could unlock climate, health, environment benefits and reduce the risk of future pandemics.
We know a lot about this issue from a global perspective and over the past year several reports have outlined how the global food system needs to transform. This report, however, begins to explore this issue at the country level, with a specific focus on the need for the G20 to lead.
This is one of the first reports to quantify and compare national dietary guidelines and whether they are ambitious enough to achieve the Paris Agreement. We also focus on the G20 and the important leadership role they play in achieving healthy and sustainable diets for everyone on the planet.
It’s fundamental. Whether we are worried about climate change, the biodiversity crisis, inequality or pandemics, shifting diets is central. Thankfully, the world is beginning to wake up to this fact and the COVID-19 crisis has again highlighted the fragility of the global food system. But more ambitious and rapid change is needed.
The G20 plays an outsized role in global food related emissions. Of the current carbon budget for food, the G20 is using approximately 75% and adoption of current consumption patterns would exceed the planetary boundary for food by 263%. If we truly feel that every single person on the planet has a right to healthy and enough food, then the G20 must step up and lead the way by reducing their food related greenhouse gas emissions.
National dietary guidelines are more than mere guidelines. They can also be used to determine the public procurement of food, guide public health initiatives and educational programs, and are a key component of public health policy. However, national dietary guidelines will not be effective if the foods they recommend eating are not affordable to all citizens. Therefore, affordability must be elevated as a priority along with health and environmental sustainability and national dietary guidelines must be coherent with food and agriculture priorities.
This report builds upon a growing body of research pointing to the sweeping benefits of shifting diets. This research has shown that a global shift toward healthier, more sustainable diets will combat climate change and food insecurity (IPCC 2019), improve human health (GNR 2020, FAO et al. 2020) save nearly 11 million lives globally (Willett et al 2019), make national supply chains more resilient to shocks (FAO 2020), reduce the financial risks associated with meat production (FAIRR 2020), reduce the risks of future pandemics (WWF 2020; UNEP and ILRI 2020), and could unleash USD 4.5 trillion in new business opportunities each year, at the same time saving USD 5.7 trillion a year in damage to people and the planet (FOLU 2019).
- IPCC (2019). 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.
- Global Nutrition Report (2020). Action on equity to end malnutrition.
- FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO (2020). The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020. Transforming food systems for affordable healthy diets.
- Willett W, Rockström J, Loken B, et al. (2019). Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems.
- FAO (2020). COVID-19 and the risk to food supply chains: How to respond?
- FAIRR (2020). An industry infected: Animal agriculture in a post-COVID world.
- WWF (2020). COVID19: Urgent Call to Protect People and Nature.
- United Nations Environment Programme and International Livestock Research Institute (2020). Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission.
- FOLU (2019). Growing Better: Ten Critical Transitions to Transform Food and Land Use.