Eating for 2 Degrees - WWF UK and Sustainable Diets
Update of Livewell Plates
In 2011 WWF UK published the first 'Livewell plate'. This was very successful in putting the topic of sustainable diets on the agenda of governments, food companies and health organisations, as well as demonstrating that it was possible to incorporate sustainability in dietary recommendations. Building on this success and the 'Paris Agreement' WWF UK decided to update the Livewell Plates. The new Livewell Plates demonstrate that by adopting a sustainable diet it is possible to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees.
Worldwide, around 20% of the direct global emissions are related to food and agriculture. If we take land use into account this is even more (30%). Besides that, agriculture is the major cause of deforestation (and loss of biodiversity). Moreover, about 70% of all fresh water withdrawn is used for agricultural irrigation.
What we eat and how it’s produced have consequences for the whole planet. By adapting our dietary patterns and improving our food production systems we can make a major contribution to the environmental impact of our food system. Together with WWF UK we investigated what the inhabitants of the United Kingdom should eat between now and 2030 to reduce the emissions of the United Kingdom with 60%, as advised by the Committee on Climate Change. Other environmental criteria have been added to the research: water use and land footprint. The results are captured in the new and updated Livewell Plates. The new plates show that is not difficult to stay under the 2 degrees of global warming by changing our diet. There are no radical changes needed. Moreover, the new diets are still affordable.
What are Livewell Plates?
Livewell Plates are representative diets that meet national nutritional requirements while reducing the environmental footprint of the food system that produces them: they’re diets that are good for both people and planet.
Update Livewell Plates: healthy and sustainable diets
The Livewell Plates give UK residents practical tips on how to put together a sustainable diet. They show what people should eat between now and 2030 to ensure we can meet the targets in the Paris climate agreement.
Four target groups
Blonk Consultants has together with WWF UK analysed the possible sustainable and healthy diets for the United Kingdom. This analysis was carried out with Optimeal. It takes overall nutritional requirements of a given group, then finding a division of food products that will meet these needs while also respecting various environmental constraints agreed by the research team (limited carbon footprint in line with national reduction targets, equal individual shares of the world's current agricultural land etc.). Their goal was to create Livewell Plates whose composition was as close as possible to the current average diet in each country for each group. The report includes four target groups:
- adolescents (10-17)
- adults (18-64)
- elderly (65-84)
- vegans (18-64)
Each includes the latest nutritional data, environmental metrics and an estimate of costs; and is compared to current average diets for each demographic.
What are the environmental consequences of our dietary choices?
The analysis was carried out with Optimeal, a bespoke optimization tool that uses quadratic programming. In simple terms, it works by taking the overall nutritional requirements of a given group, then finding a division of food products that will meet these needs while also respecting various environmental constraints agreed by the research team (limited carbon footprint in line with national reduction targets, equal individual shares of the world’s current agricultural land etc.). An important starting point was to find a diet with the fewest possible changes relative to the current diet, while meeting all restrictions.
The Plates provide the necessary amount of calories, as well as all nutrient and dietary requirements needed to lead a healthy life, while reducing the carbon footprint of the UK’s food system by 30% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. As well as a lower carbon footprint, the Livewell Plates have lower impact on land use change and land occupation.
- Whole grain products
- Vegetable oils
- Other meats
Get in touch
Meike van de Wouw
Do you have questions about this research, or are you interested in Optimeal? Get in touch with Meike.