Policy strategies for reducing the climate impact of food and agriculture
Book chapter, 2017
In this chapter we argue that in order to substantially reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from food production and to preserve natural and agricultural biodiversity, policies that separately address the demand and the supply sides of the food system will be required. Taxes on animal food, and other policies that shift consumption patterns towards less GHG-intensive and land-demanding food, will be crucial for reducing agricultural GHG emissions as well as for mitigating biodiversity losses related to the expansion of agriculture into natural ecosystems. Demand-moderating policies are vital because of the overall low potential for reducing agricultural GHG emissions by technological means, and because of the inherently large land requirements of ruminant meat (beef and lamb) production. However, demand-side policies alone are far from enough. Comprehensive supply-side policies will also be required, especially for containing agricultural land expansion in order to protect biodiversity in tropical regions. Supply-side policies, such as direct subsidies, will also be fundamental for preserving agricultural-related biodiversity in Europe and other regions holding biodiversity-rich permanent pastures. The latter holds for Europe even if no policies that moderate the demand for ruminant meat are put in place, since the low-intensive land use characteristic of these areas in either case is not economically viable in the long run. Furthermore, the biodiversity-rich areas represent a minor share of the total agricultural land in Europe. Therefore, the goal to preserve agricultural biodiversity in Europe should not be taken as a counter-argument against reducing global ruminant meat production by the implementation of demand-moderating policies.