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Food systems and environmental limits

November 2018: The IPCC report highlights that a shift to a plant-based diet could reduce the environmental impact of our food systems. However, this shift requires rethinking of current systems such as food distribution.


A recent paper in Nature adds further evidence that food systems are major drivers of adverse environmental impacts. Over the next decades, food demand will rise consistently and exceed further production levels that are within our planetary boundaries. The latest IPCC report also highlights the need to re-think current food systems.


To reduce the environmental impact of food systems and promote closed-loop supply chains, these studies propose that a combination of: more plant-based diets, reductions in food wastage (e.g. using improved packaging that improves shelf-life), improvements in agricultural infrastructure (eg storage, transport, distribution systems), enhanced technical skills, and education and awareness campaigns.


Springman, M., Clark, M.,, 2018. Options for keeping the food systems within environmental limits. Nature, 10 (1).

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2018). Global warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty. Retrieved from


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Adele Wiliams

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The views expressed in these external research papers are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.