06. Climate-friendly development of foods, consumption, agriculture and forestry

Food production and consumption is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, both in Denmark and globally. Balancing the reduction of global emissions while also ensuring sufficient and good foods will become even harder towards 2050 at which time the global population will have reached 10bn and people will, fortunately, be less poor.

While food production and agriculture constitute part of the challenge of climate change, they also constitute part of the solution. Afforestation and the extraction of organic soils are some of our best tools for carbon removal and carbon storage.

They can play a defining role in the achievement of Denmark’s 2050 goals for climate neutrality and the similar goal in the Paris Agreement of achieving a balance between emissions by sources and removals by sinks.

Denmark has – with its highly modernized agricultural sector – a special opportunity. By developing and disseminating new climate solutions, we can reduce global emissions more than we would be able to to by dismantling our domestic production, which is relatively modest seen on a global scale. At the same time, we can increase exports to the benefit of growth and employment.

Consumption, production and barriers

It is sometimes discussed whether the solutions to the challenge of climate change can be found in production or consumption. This is – to put it in food terms – a chicken and egg problem.

Demand from consumers drives production. However, production should, regardless of demand, be organised in a way that is climate-friendly. In this way, both consumption and production are addressed.

danish trade union confederation

Unfortunately, there are multiple barriers to mitigation efforts. On the production side, the agricultural sector is exposed to competition, and therefore, a Danish go-it-alone approach with its ambitious regulation can lead to a relocation of production to countries with lower production costs.

This would neither benefit the climate, the Danish economy nor employment. At the same time, the individual farms may have a limited capacity or limited access to financing.

Finally, the biological processes behind emissions and removals are complex and more initiatives can be costly or have adverse side effects. Accordingly, there is still a a need for research and development into better instruments.

In terms of consumption, it can be difficult to find out the carbon footprint of what you eat. And it can be difficult to change spending habits without experiencing it as an unwelcome change and intervention that reduces the quality of life or which creates a social imbalance. This is something that FH opposes.

Specific initiatives

Box 8 sums up FH’s proposals for initiatives that reduce the climate impact from consumption, create a more climate-friendly production and promote carbon storage. The total effects of the initiatives can, based on the work of the climate partnerships, reduce emissions by approximately 5.4m tonnes of CO2e. In addition to this, the initiatives will contribute to other sectors.

For example, slurry from agriculture contributes to biogas production while forestry can replace more climate-impacting materials in construction. The proposals must therefore be considered in relation to a number of FH’s other proposals.

The total financing need is assessed to constitute approximately DKK 20bn of which a considerable share can be financed by private investors or EU funds.

More climate-friendly production

In order to identify challenges and solutions at the individual farm, additional funds should be allocated to further development, demonstrations and scaling up of climate accounts.

At the same time, specific initiatives must be promoted. Requirements should be introduced for a quick  of slurry and – at the EU-level – a requirement to add so-called “nitrification inhibitors” from the time when they meet the necessary standards for health and price etc.

Funds should also be set aside for modernisation and scrapping of outdated stables with a view to establishing an even more climate-friendly production. In total, approximately DKK 6bn can be allocated for subsidies towards 2030.

Finally, funds should be allocated to the development of new climate measures. Firstly, funds should be allocated to research into biorefining and establishment of at least two major biorefinery plants in partnership with private investors.

These plants should contribute to the development and scaling up of technologies, including the production of alternative proteins which, among other things, can reduce the need for soy imports.

The establishment of the two plants is assessed to generate 7,000 full-time equivalents. In order to support the production of grass for biorefining, a subsidy scheme of DKK 500m should be established, for example, from 2023 to 2030.

The total initiative to promote biorefining will underpin the strategic commitment to the circular economy, including bioeconomics. Secondly, funds should be set aside for research into reduction of methane emissions from livestock production, including a substance currently referred to by scientists as “x” that can reduce emissions considerably.

Reduced climate impact from consumption

Some foods have a lower carbon footprint than others. For example, chicken typically has a smaller carbon footprint than lamb and beef. At the same time, foods with a smaller carbon footprint are often cheaper and healthier. To many, a climate-friendly diet can therefore be a win-win situation.

FH believes, basically, that the individual should be allowed to choose what he or she will eat. However, the choice of what to eat must be an informed one. This will make it easier for the individual to decide whether to eat climate-friendly foods, healthy foods, cheap foods or to prioritize in an entirely different way.

The following dietary recommendations must, like other recommendations, reflect their climate impact, and information campaigns must be carried out. At the same time, the public sector must take the lead when it comes to diet.

Regardless of what we eat, waste should be avoided. Therefore, a common method for measuring food waste and reduction targets should be prepared, and the effort should be strengthened – among other things through consumer information, improved food preservation and lower prices on surplus food.

Promotion of carbon removals and storage

A national plan must be prepared for the extraction of organic soils that includes a prioritization of the most important areas. At the same time, funds must be set aside for the extraction of 47,700 hectares and, if required in order to meet the 2030 target, funds to extract another 60,600 hectares.

The state should, furthermore, give notice of climate-friendly cultivation restrictions on soils with a high priority according to the national plan.  The possibilities for strengthening and/or financing the efforts at the EU level or via private investors, including foundations and innovative sources of investment, should be examined.

In addition to this, funds should be set aside for increased afforestation and forest production, including 5,600 hectares of new forest a year towards 2030. In this connection, the state should examine options for co-financing, for example from foundations, private investors and waterworks with an interest in afforestation for groundwater protection.

The carbon in wood should, preferably, be stored permanently. The state should therefore make a strategy for climate-friendly timber construction. This includes a service check of the fire safety regulations, taking safety etc. into account.

Whether more wood, specifically, should be used will depend on the life cycle analyses in construction that FH proposes in the chapter on installations, structures and buildings and that will include all construction materials.

Consumer information, improved food preservation and lower prices on surplus food


You just finished reading Chapter 06. Climate-friendly development of foods, consumption, agriculture and development of forests.

Read all chapters below:

05. More circular economy, better disposal and management of waste

The circular economy is about moving from a linear production to methods of production where materials are kept in a circuit and the need for new raw materials is reduced.

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10. Climate taxes and other sources of financing

Throughout the years, many economists have pointed to the fact that the most cost-efficient and technology-neutral tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions would be general climate taxes.

Read more