IPCC findings confirm urgency to make sustainable healthy diets easy, says NGO coalition
20 March 2023
In light of the findings to be released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – that changes to our diets can substantially slash greenhouse gas emissions – we at Eurogroup for Animals are calling for better ‘food environments’ in the EU (1) alongside other influential organisations. This means concrete measures to make healthy, more plant-based diets with ‘less and better’ animal products the easy choice for European consumers.
We’ve recently formed a coalition with the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) and European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), as the European Commission is due to propose a landmark law on sustainable food systems in September. The law is expected to recognise the role and influence of ‘food environments’ in shaping consumer food choices.
Food is among the sectors where demand-side changes can be most impactful. Yet currently, food environments largely push consumers towards unhealthy and unsustainable foods which are the most available and advertised, as well as often the cheapest options.
IPCC experts recognise the right policies and infrastructure need to be in place to enable shifts to sustainable healthy diets (2). Incredibly, changes to our lifestyles and behaviour can result in a 40-70% drop in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, while also improving our health and wellbeing (3)!
Our coalition, named ‘Put Change on the Menu’, therefore urges action to:
Ensure that foods contributing to sustainable healthy diets are the most advertised and promoted;
Make sustainable and healthy foods more affordable;
Make food products healthier and more sustainable by design through new minimum legal requirements;
Ensure that these minimum requirements also apply to imported foods.
Reineke Hameleers, Eurogroup for Animals Chief Executive Officer, commented:
European citizens care deeply about animal welfare and have made strong calls for animal welfare to be improved. Products from higher welfare systems in combination with more plant-based food on European plates are also good for the planet and health. Still we see numerous campaigns promoting the consumption of animal products in the EU. This needs to change. Therefore we are joining forces with consumer and health organisations to make sure that the healthy, sustainable option is the one that is the most promoted along the lines of ‘less and better’.
Monique Goyens, BEUC Director General, commented:
Sustainable healthy diets are a win-win for health, climate and food security. Most consumers are willing to change their food habits, such as eating ‘less and better’ meat and more fruit, vegetables and pulses. But that is no easy task. Change must be rolled out at several levels to make the healthy sustainable choice the obvious choice. Regulators, food producers, and retailers have a crucial role to play to adjust pricing, marketing, and every other factor that pushes us to buy one food product over another.
Milka Sokolovic, EPHA Director General, commented:
Making healthy and climate smart food choices the easiest options for all is not just needed to reduce the very real threats to health posed by climate change highlighted in the IPCC report. It’s also needed to help tackle the burgeoning burden of ill health that poor diets largely contribute towards.
In its 2020 ‘Farm to Fork’ Strategy for fairer, healthier, and greener food and farming, the European Commission announced a new EU legislative Framework for a Sustainable Food System for 2023. This horizontal law will introduce definitions, sustainability objectives and principles to ensure that existing and future EU legislation about food consistently contributes towards the goal of a sustainable food system which operates within planetary boundaries.
For our coalition, it’s vital that the Framework for a Sustainable Food System paves the ground for further concrete policy measures addressing specific elements of food environments such as advertising and marketing, labelling, public procurement and the affordability of healthy and sustainable food.
(1) The Synthesis Report, the closing chapter of IPCC sixth assessment cycle, will integrate the findings of previous reports released by IPCC during this cycle which began in 2015, including that of Working Group III on ‘Mitigation of Climate Change’ which tackled demand-side mitigation solutions.
(2) Which in the EU means eating more fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, and pulses, and ‘less and better’ meat and dairy.
(3) See IPCC Working Group III contribution published on 4 April 2022.
Food environments have been defined as the “physical, economic, political and socio-cultural context in which consumers engage with the food system to make their decisions about acquiring, preparing and consuming food.”