New Legislation Could Make Maryland the First State to Set GHG Reduction Target for its Food PurchasesState bill aims to reduce Maryland’s food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030
ANNAPOLIS, MD — Senator Clarence Lam (D-Howard County) and Delegate Jim Gilchrist (D-Montgomery County) introduced first-of-its-kind state legislation this week to set a target of reducing emissions from the food the state and its public universities procure by 25% by 2030.
Maryland does not currently track GHG emissions associated with food consumption, but globally, the food and agriculture sector accounts for between 21 and 37% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The livestock sector alone accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the U.S. consumes 2.6 times as much meat as the global average, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“If Maryland wants to continue leading on the climate crisis, it must focus on consumption-based emissions from the food sector,” said Chloë Waterman, Climate-Friendly Food Program Manager at Friends of the Earth. “Maryland can reduce its carbon footprint and improve public health at the same time by shifting menus and purchasing practices. We applaud Senator Lam and Delegate Gilchrist for spearheading this crucial climate legislation.”
Research has shown that shifting to a diets high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans, and low in red and processed meat, can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and some forms of cancer, saving the state millions of dollars in health care costs associated with diet-related chronic diseases. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends vegetarian and low-meat, Mediterranean diets as healthy eating patterns that “are associated with reduced risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.”
Legislation to require tracking of GHG emissions of food and to encourage voluntary reduction efforts was introduced last year but ultimately withdrawn because of an agreement between the Chair of the Health and Government Operations Committee and the Department of General Services Secretary to pursue the project administratively over the interim. Earlier this summer, on the same day that the IPCC issued a major report that calls for shifting our diets and cutting food waste to address climate change, Governor Hogan intervened to shut down the project under pressure from industrial agriculture lobbying groups.
University of Maryland College Park, along with other institutions across the country representing more than 800 million meals served annually, has already begun tracking its food consumption-based emissions and committed to a 25% reduction by 2030.
Reducing food consumption based GHG emissions is a cost-effective climate strategy. When Oakland Unified School District reduced their meat and dairy purchases by 30% over a period of two years, they reduced their carbon footprint by 14% while also improving student meal satisfaction. To achieve that same carbon reduction by installing rooftop solar panels, it would have cost them over $2 million dollars. Instead, even after investing some cost savings into purchasing more local and fresh produce and meat, the district saved $42,000 annually on their foodservice.
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