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Reducing our foodprint: Encouraging dietary change for climate change mitigation in Canada

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This study assesses the role of food consumption in climate change and the potential for mitigation in encouraging dietary change in Canada. A literature review reveals the significance of dietary change in this contemporary issue to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Three case studies are analyzed (Australia, Sweden, and Denmark) in their attempts to shift dietary patterns to determine both the effectiveness and political acceptability of chosen policy instruments. Expert interviews are conducted to both confirm and supplement findings. The analysis reveals that although information-based policies can help to build vital public awareness, price incentives are the most effective interventions. Considering the sensitivity of diet intervention and the current limited public awareness about the issue, political acceptability is in the short-term a significant barrier. Building on these findings, three policy options emerge and are analyzed to curb the consumption of high GHG intensive foods – a tax on high GHG intensive foods over a carbon equivalent threshold, a combined general and low-income subsidy, and ‘traffic-light’ style GHG labels. These options are evaluated based on five criteria: effectiveness, political acceptance, administrative ease, minimized cost to government, and equity. As a result, I recommend that: (i) a low-income subsidy and ‘traffic light’ GHG labels be considered for implementation in the short term. In addition, a revision of dietary guidelines is recommended as a baseline to include the environmental impacts of specific foods; and (ii) in the long-term, a tax on high GHG intensive foods be applied to fund a general subsidy to further encourage dietary change among the Canadian public.
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