Numerous recent studies have shown that a global shift toward healthier, more sustainable diets will combat climate change, improve human health and food security, reduce biodiversity loss, save lives, decrease the risks of future pandemics, and unlock economic benefits. This research has helped establish the global impacts of the current food system; now these global recommendations must be translated into local reality. We begin this work by offering a detailed analysis of the impacts of various dietary patterns (including national dietary guidelines) on several health and environmental variables in 147 countries around the world, highlighting impacts using a handful of examples.
We frame the analysis around five strategic actions that can be strongly influenced by dietary shifts and are needed to bend the curve on the negative impacts of the food system, moving from one that exploits the planet to one that restores it for nature and people. These actions are 1) reversing biodiversity loss; 2) living within the global carbon budget for food; 3) feeding humanity on existing cropland; 4) achieving negative emissions; and 5) optimizing crop yields.
National-level success on these strategic actions through dietary changes is critical to building a nature-positive food system that helps to reverse the loss of nature to restore both people and planet. Dietary shifts toward planet-based diets can contribute to climate, biodiversity and sustainable development goals. As the Living Planet Report 2020 highlights, achieving these international goals and commitments is more urgent than ever: “humanity’s increasing destruction of nature is having catastrophic impacts not only on wildlife populations but also on human health and all aspects of our lives.”
Currently, we are producing enough food to feed the planet, but global food production does not respect planetary boundaries. We are now beginning to see the consequences of our actions and the warning signs of a planet in crisis. Dietary shifts are key in reversing course so that food is produced in a way that restores the planet, not destroys it. In the end, dietary changes will play out at local levels and differently in countries around the world. Understanding the impacts of country-level dietary shifts and how the strategic actions outlined in this report synergistically interact is a critical first step toward taking action.