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nitrogen pollution, climate and land use: why what we eat matters

A new report will quantify for the first time how much our food choices affect pollutant nitrogen emissions, climate change and land-use across Europe.

The work has been conducted by the ‘Task Force on Reactive Nitrogen’ of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).  In 2011 the Task Force produced the ‘European Nitrogen Assessment’ (ENA) which showed that better nitrogen management will help reduce air, water and soil pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, simultaneously reducing threats to human health, biodiversity and food security.

The new ENA Special Report on Nitrogen and Food, ‘Nitrogen on the Table’, to be published in May, calculates what would happen if Europe were to decrease its consumption of meat and dairy products.  It shows how much cutting down on meat and dairy in our diets would reduce nitrogen air/water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, while freeing up large areas of farmland for other purposes such as food export or biofuels.  It also considers the health benefits of reduced meat consumption.

Some of the report’s authors came to the SMC to describe their findings.



Prof Mark Sutton, Environmental Physicist at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Edinburgh and co-author of the report

Henk Westhoek, program manager for Agriculture and Food at PBL (the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency) and co-author of the report

Dr Alessandra Di Marco, researcher at the Air Pollution Unit of the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development

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