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Doctoral thesis2022Open access

The environmental pressures of foods : Application in climate taxation and sustainability assessment of diets

Moberg, Emma

Abstract

Reducing environmental impacts from the food system will require a shift towards environmentally sustainable eating patterns. To achieve changes in diets that reduce environmental burdens, a climate tax on food has been suggested. This thesis examined different aspects of data on environmental pressures and their use for establishing and evaluating a tax on food, as well as assessing the sustainability of diets. This included establishing climate impact values for foods, for use in a climate tax. Further, this thesis identified aspects needed to determine the environmental sustainability of diets in the Swedish context. The environmental pressures of the current average Swedish diet were calculated and benchmarked against suggested global environmental boundaries. Potential goal conflicts resulting from taxation were identified.


A method based on Life Cycle Assessment was developed for establishing consistent and transparent datasets on the climate impact of foods, for use in a climate tax on food. Evaluation of methodological choices for assessing climate impact revealed a common trade-off between using climate impact data that result in a theoretically cost-efficient tax and simplicity in calculations.


Comparison of the global EAT-Lancet framework for environmentally sustainable food systems and the national Swedish Environmental Objectives revealed a need for additional aspects to capture regional environmental concerns in Sweden. For this, there is a need for better inventory data, site-dependent impact modelling and improved traceability for imported foods. The environmental pressures of Swedish food consumption were found to exceed global boundaries for greenhouse gas emissions, cropland use and nutrient application by two- to four-fold. For extinction rate of terrestrial species, the boundary was transgressed by six-fold. The only environmental category for which the global boundary was not exceeded was freshwater use, for which the diet performed well below the limit.


Climate taxation on all foods on the Swedish market was found to have the potential to reduce food-related environmental pressures by 7-12%, mainly owing to an overall decrease in food consumption. With a decline in beef consumption, pasture use was found to decrease by up to 12%. To avoid potential goal conflicts with maintaining Swedish semi-natural pastures when introducing a climate tax, farmers could be given higher payments for management of these areas.

Keywords

Food; climate tax; environmental pressures; environmental impacts; environmental sustainability; Life Cycle Assessment; goal conflicts; EAT-Lancet; Swedish Environmental Objectives

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2022, number: 2022:6ISBN: 978-91-7760-887-5, eISBN: 978-91-7760-888-2Publisher: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Economic Geography
    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
    Food Science

    Permanent link to this page (URI)

    https://res.slu.se/id/publ/115807