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Public kitchens can play a key role in the prevalence of climate friendly food

In a new analysis, The Danish Counsel of Climate Change recommends that public kitchens scale up the climate friendly nutrition in their work.

Danish food has a big impact on the accumulated strain on climate and although many people do have an interest in eating more climate friendly, they have problems doing so. This might be caused by a range of conditions, that the consumers’ percept as barriers. That is possibly the notion of climate positive food has a bad taste to it, is not filling enough or even is limited to certain groups of people who prefer to have less meat on their plates. Otherwise it could also have something to do with practical challenges in coming up with new dishes and learning to cook with different ingredients than you are used to.

These are some of the conclusions in the analysis from The Council of Climate Change: Climate friendly food and consumer behaviorism – barriers and opportunities to encourage climate friendly diet in Denmark. In the analysis the council argues that it is important, to make climate friendly food more common among consumers if we want to influence them to eat more climate positive.

Therefore, the climate council recommends that all public kitchens serve climate friendly food as a step on the way to get the Danes eating habits more sustainable. The analysis indicates that public kitchens can play a key role in getting Danes used to eat more plants, less meat and fewer dairy products.

The public kitchens have the possibility to introduce these sustainable types of food to greater amounts of people due to their servings of approximately 650,000 meals per day. That fact in itself will be beneficial to the climate, to adjust these many meal-servings. But it is equally important to introduce many more people to climate-friendly food. In this way, it will spread awareness of good, climate-friendly diets, and contribute to it being perceived as more common to eat sustainably. The public kitchens should follow the official dietary advice, which in a new edition since the beginning of this year has tried to guide the Danes to both healthy and climate-friendly food.

“Public kitchens are absolutely central to the spread of this concept. Today, it deviates from the norm to eat climate-friendly, and one can easily come to believe, for example, that climate-friendly diet is reserved for a particularly idealistic group. If more people get good plant-rich food at work, for example, then the climate-friendly choice will become a more common part of our everyday life, and more people will adopt it – also when they have to cook for themselves or the family,” says a member of the Climate Council Bente Halkier.

The recommendation differs from last year’s plan by the government to introduce two vegetarian days a week in the state canteens. The government withdrew the proposal again, partly because it was perceived as coercion. With the Climate Council’s recommendation, the kitchens will have the freedom within the framework of the dietary guidelines to be able to plan their meals themselves, as is best for the kitchen and its guests. The freedom of choice can be important if both kitchens and guests are to adopt the new eating habits.

Lack of knowledge on climate positivism

To many people, a lack of knowledge on how food contributes to climate stress, can be a barrier for more climate friendly eating habits. The Council of Climate Change therefore recommends that the government works on establishing a climate label for the food products. The label must inform the consumers when they do grocery shopping. The exact design should be determined in a broad-based public-private collaboration.

“Many people would like to eat more climate-friendly, and as a society we can do a lot to make it easier to get into green habits. A label on the food products can guide the consumer in the store. It will also contribute to climate considerations becoming a more normal and natural part of grocery shopping for making dinner or children’s lunches,” says the chairman of the Climate Council, Peter Møllgaard.

The Council of Climate Change emphasize that prices, plays an important role on the consumers’ choice, and a tax on how much each food product makes a carbon footprint will prompt them not to choose climate negative products and can also contribute to normalizing climate friendly diet. Throughout 2022 an expert group in the government should deliver their second and final report for a green tax reform, where the focus among other things is expected to be on the possibilities of imposing taxes on carbon emissions from the agriculture. The Council encourage the government to expand the mandate of the expert group, so that it also includes a model for consumption taxes on food – both danish and imported.

Large burden on the climate

Danes has the biggest carbon footprint from food consumerism in the world measured per inhabitant. Det danish usage of food thereby challenges the ambition to be a pioneering country on climate. An average Dane consumes more than double as much animal food, as the average citizen of the world and also more than the European average. The Council of Climate Changes analysis shows, that it will give an immediate global climate gain of approximately 2½ – 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year if all Danes follow the dietary guidelines. Analyses point out, that this effect is not diluted to any significant extent derived from effects in foreign countries. In that way, the changes in diets support the climate laws goal of Denmark should be contributing in reducing global emissions and at the same time contribute to the goal of being a pioneering country for climate action. In relation to Danish food production and thus contributing to the 70 percent target in 2030, the effect is modest. This is because a very large part of Danish food production is exported. Anyhow a change in diets can pote

“By eating climate-friendly, you save the climate from a lot of greenhouse gas. At the same time, you are helping to send a signal to the producers about what they should focus on in the future,” says Peter Møllgaard.

Source: Klimarådet