Implementing land-based mitigation to achieve the Paris Agreement in Europe requires food system transformation

Heera Lee, Calum Brown, Bumsuk Seo, Ian Holman, Eric Audsley, George Cojocaru, Mark Rounsevell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Land-based mitigation, particularly through afforestation, reforestation and avoided deforestation, is an important component of the Paris Agreement to limit average global temperature increases to between 1.5 °C and 2 °C. However, the specific actions that would ensure sufficient carbon sequestration in forests remain unclear, as do their trade-offs against other land-based objectives.We use a regional integrated assessment model to identify the conditions under which European forests reach the extent required by mitigation targets.We compare stylised scenarios of changes in meat demand, bioenergy crop production, irrigation efficiency, and crop yield improvement. Only 42 out of 972 model simulations achieved minimum levels offood provision and forest extent without the need to change dietary preferences, but relied on crop yield improvements within Europe of at least 30%. Maintaining food imports at today’s levels to avoid the potential displacement offood production and deforestation
required at least a 15% yield improvement, or a drastic reduction in meat consumption (avg. 57%). The results suggest that the large-scale afforestation/reforestation planned in European targets is virtually impossible to achieve without transformation of thefood system, making it unlikely that Europe will play its required role in global efforts to limit climate change without utilising land beyond its borders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104009
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2019


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