Scientific Articles

Feeding climate and biodiversity goals with novel plant-based meat and milk alternatives

Published: 12 September 2023
Authors: Marta Kozicka, Petr Havlík, Hugo Valin, Eva Wollenberg, Andre Deppermann, David Leclère, Pekka Lauri, Rebekah Moses, Esther Boere, Stefan Frank, Chris Davis, Esther Park & Noel Gurwick.

Plant-based animal product alternatives are increasingly promoted to achieve more sustainable diets. Here, we use a global economic land use model to assess the food system-wide impacts of a global dietary shift towards these alternatives. We find a substantial reduction in the global environmental impacts by 2050 if globally 50% of the main animal products (pork, chicken, beef and milk) are substituted—net reduction of forest and natural land is almost fully halted and agriculture and land use GHG emissions decline by 31% in 2050 compared to 2020. If spared agricultural land within forest ecosystems is restored to forest, climate benefits could double, reaching 92% of the previously estimated land sector mitigation potential. Furthermore, the restored area could contribute to 13-25% of the estimated global land restoration needs under target 2 from the Kunming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework by 2030, and future declines in ecosystem integrity by 2050 would be more than halved. The distribution of these impacts varies across regions—the main impacts on agricultural input use are in China and on environmental outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa and South America. While beef replacement provides the largest impacts, substituting multiple products is synergistic.