2040 climate target - EU Commission half-heartedly recognises the role of shifting diets

2040 climate target - EU Commission half-heartedly recognises the role of shifting diets

6 February 2024
Press Release

Today, the European Commission published its communication starting the process for establishing a 2040 intermediary climate target on the EU’s road towards climate neutrality by 2050, yet it fails to recognise the full potential of shifting diets to fully achieve these goals.

The final text no longer includes a reference to a 30% cut in non-CO2 emissions from agriculture, such as CH4 emissions from livestock and N2O emissions from soils. Similarly, parts of the communication recognising the role of lifestyle changes, including dietary shifts, in bringing greenhouse gas emissions down have also been dropped. On a more positive note, the communication stresses the role of the food industry in contributing to food environments making healthy diets an easy and affordable choice for consumers.

The last-minute watering down follows the farmers’ protests which have unfolded across Europe. Policymakers are responding to farmers’ discontent by settling on short-sighted compromises and rolling back climate policies, rather than adopting necessary long-term measures. Yet, the agriculture and food sectors have great potential to enable dietary shifts, reduce climate-harming emissions and improve human and animal health.

The link between dietary patterns and greenhouse gas emissions is now beyond question. It is beyond understanding that the Commission has deliberately ignored it. If we want to be serious on the climate crises, EU policymakers must regulate food environments, and make our food choices healthy and sustainable by default. They must use the One Health approach - in all policies - as a reflex, not a slogan.

Dr. Milka Sokolovic, Director General, European Public Health Alliance (EPHA)

Today the Commission failed to recognise the need for shifting to healthy, plant-rich diets and raising fewer animals under much higher conditions to achieve the EU’s climate objectives. Without such a transition the EU falls short on  its ambitions on animal welfare whilst jeopardising its climate, environmental and health objectives.

Reineke Hameleers, CEO, Eurogroup for Animals

However hard the Commission tries to handle farmers with kid gloves, facts are stubborn things: our food and agriculture systems contribute a big chunk of the EU’s climate impact. Consumers are willing to change the way they eat and play their part in the fight against climate change, provided sustainable, healthy food becomes more available and affordable. Now the ball is in the court of the next European Commission, who will have to urgently dust off the overdue Sustainable Food Systems law and put it on the table. Such law must incentivise industry and retailers to better support consumers in the transition.

Monique Goyens, Director General, European Consumer Organisation (BEUC)

This short briefing outlines why shifting diets has a positive impact on health and climate. 

Put Change on the Menu is a collaborative project between BEUCEurogroup for Animals, and the European Public Health Alliance.