Denmark is ranked one of the top 20 countries in the World Climate Change Performance Index, which evaluates efforts to combat climate change. It strives to become so green that it will reach carbon emission neutrality no later than 2050. This desire has led the country to recently introduced 38 new initiatives that aim to help the country reach its green goals. One of the projects from the 38 initiatives is to add environmental impact to food labels. It is being spearheaded by the Danish Agriculture and Food Council.
“The council would like to oblige food manufacturers and supermarkets to rate their products’ impact on the climate and environment, in order to help shoppers make more [environmentally] educated decisions,” Morten Høyer, the Council’s director, told CNN.
With environmental impact labels on products, consumers will be able to make fully educated purchases in the supermarket. They will be aware of the product’s environmental and climate impact, and subsequently their impact upon purchase. Hopefully, Danes (the consumer) will use the knowledge to make the right choices, ones that will lower their own carbon footprints and improve the world’s climate; and the makers and providers of the products (The producer) will be more inclined to supply and fabricate in a sustainable manner.
“We want to give consumers the means to assess in supermarkets the environmental impact of products,” said Minister for the Environment Lars Christian Lilleholt. “My impression is that there is a demand for knowledge about how individual consumers can contribute to improving world climate.”
Denmark’s food label proposal was brought to light after a daunting UN report that warned everyone the world has about 12 years to avert climate catastrophe at the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions.
Scientists on the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had marked a point not to be crossed in global temperature rise – 1.5 degrees Celsius. If the planet crosses this threshold, it will see the worst effects of climate change ever. Yet somehow, despite this warning, temperatures have already risen 1°C as a result of human activity according to the U.N. organization’s latest report. If greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the planet could pass the 1.5°C threshold as early as 2030.
For this not to happen, we have to shift the trajectory of carbon dioxide emissions so that we either stop emitting by around 2050, or pull more carbon out of the atmosphere than we release. A variety of solutions include (but are not limited to), energy efficiency, electrifying transport and pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by reforesting regions and using carbon capture technology. Furthermore, renewable energy will need to provide at least 70% of global electricity in 2050.
“The main difference between possibility and impossibility is just political will,” says Chris Weber, WWF’s global climate and energy lead scientist.
Food production is responsible for 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe. Production of meat represents the highest contributor. Many environmental factors to consider are pesticide use, transportation, and packaging. These elements would be calculated and exposed on new food labels for them to be accurate.
Høyer said this would not be an easy task. “Things like these are difficult to calculate, so we have a worthy challenge ahead of us before we can say with certainty that we have the right solution for a climate label,” he said.
The plan for the labels includes collaboration with supermarkets. Denmark’s Minister for the Environment, told The Local, “I will enter into dialogue with the retail sector, butchers and other food producers to open a discussion about how we can implement this in a way that would enable the climate labelling to work.” The plan will also include a campaign to help consumers better select environmentally friendly products.
“My impression is that there is a demand for knowledge about how individual consumers can contribute to improving world climate,” said the minister.