Carbon footprints of different dietary patterns in Denmark

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Abstract

In Denmark, as in many other countries, there has been a commitment to the common goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) in order to mitigate climate change.

As part of the interventions to obtain an overall reduction of GHGE, “The Danish Official Dietary Guidelines – good for health and climate” were launched in January 2021 (1). As a part of developing the scientific basis for the new food-based dietary guidelines (FBDG) a reference diet was modelled for people aged 6-64 y, i.e. “The Danish Adapted Healthy Plant-Rich Diet” (2) (for simplicity referred to as “the plant-rich diet” in the present work). Further, plant-rich diets covering small children 2-5 y and elderly 65 y and above have been modelled based on the plant-rich reference diet 6-64 y (3,4). In addition, vegetarian diet models covering the three age groups have been developed (5).

Based on literature, it has been estimated that changing the current Danish diet to a diet following the new official FBDG would lead to a 30-35% diet-related reduction of GHGE (6). A transition to a vegetarian diet could warrant additional GHGE reductions (7).

The calculated reduction, however, depends to a large extent on the data used for the calculation. In Denmark, different sets of data of the Carbon Footprints (CF) of foods on the Danish market exist. In this report, we focus on two sets of data based on two different approaches to provide data.

One of the datasets, developed in collaboration between Aarhus University (AU) and the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), is based on life cycle assessment (LCA) studies and bottom–up analyses (8). The other one – the Big Climate Database (BCD), launched by CONCITO (9), and developed in collaboration with 2.-0 LCA Consultants – is based on a top-down approach in combination with LCA data (10). Different methods are used for LCA of food products, where one of the main differences is, that the AU-DTU table is based on attributional LCA studies, while the BCD mainly makes use of hybrid consequential LCA based on input-output analyses.

Objectives

The overall objective of the present project was to provide analyses of the climate impact of three diet types (current Danish diet, plant-rich diet and lacto-ovo vegetarian diet) in three age groups (adults, small children and older adults), using two different sets of CF data.

More specifically, the objectives were to:

- Compare CF reduction potentials associated with changing from the current Danish diet based on the Danish National Survey on Dietary habits and Physical Activity 2011-2013 (DANSDA 2011-2013) to the plant-rich diet - the basis for the official FBDG - and to a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, calculated with (1) CF data from the BCD by CONCITO, excluding and including indirect land use change (iLUC), and (2) the AU-DTU data.
- Determine the CF contribution of selected food groups to the total CF of the diets, and to the changes in CF, for all diets and both data sets
- Estimate the effects of changed energy intake on the CF of diets, based on the literature and intake data among adult Danes.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationKgs. Lyngby
PublisherDTU National Food Institute
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)978-93565-88-3
Commissioning body The Danish Council on Climate Change Secretariat
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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