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Food consumption in the city generates 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 a year

CO2 emissions. Cutting the consumption of animal proteins and increasing the use of seasonal local produce can help reduce this carbon footprint.

The carbon footprint generated by feeding the city of Barcelona has now been gauged for the first time. A study by Barcelona Regional, with collaboration from INEDIT, shows that food and drink consumption in the city (including production, packaging and distribution, and therefore taking into account emissions generated strictly outside the city limits) represents the emission of 2.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year.

This figure comes in addition to the 3.4 million tonnes generated by general activity in the city, the 5.3 million tonnes generated by activity at the port, and the 7.6 million tonnes generated by activity at the airport.

In terms of the origins of emissions linked to food consumption, the production and processing of food accounts for the biggest contribution, with 82% of emissions. By profile, local people’s household consumption accounts for three quarters of emissions in the city for food.

This means that in the domestic sphere, every city resident consumes 637 kilos of food and drink a year on average, generating 1.56 tonnes of CO2. Outside the home, this consumption reaches 85 kilos a year, meaning 178,989 tonnes of CO2 in all. As for non-residents, these consume 226,872 tonnes of food and drink a year, generating 336,682 tonnes of CO2.

Fewer animal products and more local food for more sustainable consumption

The most problematic products relating to this report are those of animal origin, including meat, lactic products, fish and seafood, with nearly 60% of CO2 emissions attributed to them. Because of this, one of the main recommendations, also included in this report and seeking to foster a more sustainable and environmentally friendly consumption, points to a reduction in animal protein as one of the priorities for cutting emissions.

Other recommendations refer to the consumption of local produce and also seasonal organic produce. In the first case, the report indicates that transport by air generates ten times more emissions, while with seasonal organic produce it emphasises that these products can save up to half of emissions caused by consuming out-of-season products.

The study is one of the series of activities and projects this year within the city’s role as the World Sustainable Food Capital, and also in line with the project proposal presented at the 7th Global Forum on the Milan Food Pact Policy on 21 October, named “Barcelona Challenge for Good Food and Climate” and backed by 14 cities.

The data in this report, showing food consumption as one of the main factors in CO2 emissions, provide input for the Food Strategy 2030 which started being drafted this month.