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Research article2017Peer reviewed

Protein futures for Western Europe: potential land use and climate impacts in 2050

Roos, Elin; Bajzelj, Bojana; Smith, Pete; Patel, Mikaela; Little, David; Garnett, Tara

Abstract

Multiple production and demand side measures are needed to improve food system sustainability. This study quantified the theoretical minimum agricultural land requirements to supply Western Europe with food in 2050 from its own land base, together with GHG emissions arising. Assuming that crop yield gaps in agriculture are closed, livestock production efficiencies increased and waste at all stages reduced, a range of food consumption scenarios were modelled each based on different 'protein futures'. The scenarios were as follows: intensive and efficient livestock production using today's species mix; intensive efficient poultry-dairy production; intensive efficient aquaculture-dairy; artificial meat and dairy; livestock on 'ecological leftovers' (livestock reared only on land unsuited to cropping, agricultural residues and food waste, with consumption capped at that level of availability); and a 'plant-based eating' scenario. For each scenario, 'projected diet' and 'healthy diet' variants were modelled. Finally, we quantified the theoretical maximum carbon sequestration potential from afforestation of spared agricultural land. Results indicate that land use could be cut by 14-86 % and GHG emissions reduced by up to approximately 90 %. The yearly carbon storage potential arising from spared agricultural land ranged from 90 to 700 Mt CO2 in 2050. The artificial meat and plant-based scenarios achieved the greatest land use and GHG reductions and the greatest carbon sequestration potential. The 'ecological leftover' scenario required the least cropland as compared with the other meat-containing scenarios, but all available pasture was used, and GHG emissions were higher if meat consumption was not capped at healthy levels.

Keywords

Land use; Climate; Food; Dietary change; Mitigation; Protein

Published in

Regional Environmental Change
2017, Volume: 17, number: 2, pages: 367-377
Publisher: SPRINGER HEIDELBERG

      Associated SLU-program

      Food Waste

      Sustainable Development Goals

      SDG2 Zero hunger
      SDG12 Responsible consumption and production
      SDG13 Climate action
      SDG15 Life on land

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

      Publication identifier

      DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-016-1013-4

      Permanent link to this page (URI)

      https://res.slu.se/id/publ/86030