Mailing: 25 January 2012

Australian LCA of egg production

This study, commissioned by the Australian Egg Corporation, investigates the egg industry’s impacts in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, energy and water use. It looks at both caged and free range egg production.

The study finds that Australian egg production generates lower levels of GHGs as compared with European egg production. n. Despite the overlapping confidence intervals, free range production generates higher emissions than caged production when shared variability is taken into account. studies. Total GHG was 1.3 +/- 0.2 kg CO2-e / kg eggs from caged production and 1.6 +/- 0.3 kg CO2-e / kg for free range production.  Energy demand in free range production is also slightly higher. The higher impacts for GHGs and energy use associated with free range production are attributable to the higher feed conversion ratio (FCR) and lower productivity as compared with caged production.

Cumulative energy demand (CED) for caged production (0.7 +/- 0.9 MJ / kg eggs) was lower than studies previously reported in the literature. Cumulative energy demand for free range egg production (13.1 +/- 1.1 MJ / kg eggs) was slightly higher than for caged production, but was similar to other studies reported in the literature.  The higher impacts for GHG and CED associated with free range production were attributable to higher feed conversion ratio (FCR) and lower productivity compared to caged production. Water use in free range production is also higher, because of the higher grain use in this system.

The relative environmental efficiency of egg production in Australian, as compared with European production, is accounted for by the “the high performance of modern Australian egg production coupled with the low input nature of Australian grain production. Additionally, Australian grain is produced in conditions that do not favour nitrous oxide emissions… These result in low GHG and energy use for Australian eggs, both in the caged and free range systems.”

Paper: Simultaneously Mitigating Near-Term Climate Change and Improving Human Health and Food Security

This study finds that measures to tackle methane and black carbon emissions could reduce global warming by about 0.5°C by 2050.  It would also lower the burden of premature deaths and increase crop yields.  Reference and abstract as follows:

Shindell D, Kuylenstierna J C I, Vignatti E, van Dingenen R, Amann M, Klimont Z, Anenberg S C, Muller N, Janssens-Maenhout G, Raes F, Schwartz J, Faluvegi G, Pozzoli L, Kupiainen K, Höglund-Isaksson L, Emberson L, Streets D, Ramanathan V, Hicks K, Oanh N T K, Milly G, Williams M, Demkine V and Fowler D (2012). Simultaneously Mitigating Near-Term Climate Change and Improving Human Health and Food Security, Science: 183-189.[DOI:10.1126


Tropospheric ozone and black carbon (BC) contribute to both degraded air quality and global warming. We considered ~400 emission control measures to reduce these pollutants by using current technology and experience. We identified 14 measures targeting methane and BC emissions that reduce projected global mean warming ~0.5°C by 2050. This strategy avoids 0.7 to 4.7 million annual premature deaths from outdoor air pollution and increases annual crop yields by 30 to 135 million metric tons due to ozone reductions in 2030 and beyond. Benefits of methane emissions reductions are valued at $700 to $5000 per metric ton, which is well above typical marginal abatement costs (less than $250). The selected controls target different sources and influence climate on shorter time scales than those of carbon dioxide–reduction measures. Implementing both substantially reduces the risks of crossing the 2°C threshold.

Note that the study looks at seven methane related measures some of which are agriculture or food related: wastewater, livestock manure, rice paddies, coal mining, oil and gas production, long-distance gas transmission, municipal waste and landfills.

The main paper doesn’t go into details about the measures themselves but the online supporting information lists these approaches:

You can download the paper here and supporting material  here (subscription access only).

NASA provides detailed coverage here.  The UNEP report on the subject (which the Science paper summarises) can be found here.

JRF report: Climate change and sustainable consumption: what do the public think is fair?

This study was written by Tim Horton and Natan Doron and published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.  Through a series of focus groups, it explores ways that people's sense of fairness around sustainable consumption and climate change could be used to build public support for behaviour change and sustainability policies.

The report:

  • asks if people can look at climate change and sustainable consumption in terms of fairness;
  • explores the basis of views about fairness in this context and investigates the types of information required for people to look at the issue in this way;
  • considers the extent to which looking at climate change in terms of fairness can motivate support for behaviour change; and
  • examines what people think is fair in actions to reduce household CO2 emissions.

Key points:

  • Current behaviour-change strategies tend to focus on the choices individuals make in isolation and often seek to appeal solely to financial self-interest. This could be a missed opportunity to appeal to other motives that could be more effective in changing behaviour.
  • Most project participants had an intuitive notion of excessive consumption – for example, drawing distinctions between 'necessary' and 'wasteful' behaviours, or between 'necessary' and 'luxury' behaviours.
  • The most important factor in triggering people's sense of fairness was the notion of resource scarcity – in this case, limitations in the earth’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) while avoiding dangerous climate change. Most participants tended to feel excessive consumption and unequal consumption were problems in the context of resource scarcity, but not otherwise.
  • It was often a focus on the behaviour of others that brought this fairness dimension to life. In particular, participants wanted to prevent unfair free-riding – where some people would avoid reducing their CO2 emissions to sustainable levels whilst others were dutifully trying to do so.
  • While no-one especially liked the idea of regulation in itself, there was a strong feeling that if households were going to make efforts or sacrifices to reduce consumption then everyone should be required to do so.

This has implications for policy: while 'nudging' techniques might influence individual behaviour it can be hard to sustain cooperation when others are seen to be free-riding. Encouraging behaviour change or building support for sustainable consumption measures could be more effective if people understand the broader social issues and see the behavioural requirements as necessary and legitimate.
The full report is included below, or for the summary version see here.

JRF report: Sustainable income standards: Towards a greener minimum?

This report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation asks whether changes towards ‘greener’ forms of consumption are compatible with preserving a minimum acceptable standard of living. Previous analysis of the Minimum Income Standard for the UK (MIS) has shown that if everyone were to live at this minimum, carbon emissions would be around 37 per cent lower than at present. This is a long way off targets to reduce emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

The research, which focuses on household energy, food and travel, draws on:

  • consultation with experts and desk-based research to identify consumption changes that offered the greatest potential for reducing the environmental impact of the MIS; and
  • focus groups with members of the public to explore the acceptability of these changes in terms of maintaining a socially acceptable minimum living standard.

Key points:

  • The main sources of greenhouse gas emissions from households come from home energy, food and transport.
  • Savings on home energy, through adjusting behaviour, could potentially reduce domestic fuel consumption by 25 per cent, saving about £250 a year on an average fuel bill. In many cases, the public accepted such adjustments as being compatible with a minimum living standard.
  • Reducing the carbon footprint of food consumption was more complex. The most obvious way was cutting down on meat. This was resisted by the research participants, who felt people should continue to have the choice of the relatively modest levels of meat consumption specified in the Minimum Income Standard (MIS) diet.
  • The public was reluctant to adopt more sustainable modes of transport as an acceptable norm without improvements in safety, convenience and cost.
  • People were more likely to regard greener ways of living as socially acceptable where price differences caused them to see non-green consumption as a ‘luxury’. They were reluctant to accept measures that restricted choices, caused time inconvenience, or compromised safety.

You can download the full report below and the summary here.

Natural History Museum Online Earth Debates

In the run-up to June’s Rio+20, the Natural History Museum is running an interesting-looking series of web-based debates on the following topics:

  • Ecosystem economics – can we put a price on nature? 25 January 2012.
  • Beyond GDP – how can we measure progress? 22 February 2012.
  • Green cities in a green economy – how to pioneer a sustainable transition? 14 March 2012.
  • Food security – how do we feed 9 billion people in 2050? 11 April 2012.

A panel of experts, chaired by Richard Black, the BBC’s environment correspondent, will discuss these issues. See here for more information.

Paper: Big brand sustainability

This article argues that actions by big business to improve their sustainability while useful, will not be sufficient since they are fundamentally part of a growth based economic model.

Reference and abstract:
Dauvergne P and Lister J (2012).  Big brand sustainability: Governance prospects and environmental limits, Global Environmental Change, 22, 1, 36-45

This article introduces and evaluates the implications for global environmental change of the rising power and authority of big brand companies as global environmental governors. Contributing to the private governance literature and, in particular, addressing the gap in this research with respect to the political implications of individual firm ‘buyer power’, the article provides evidence and analysis of how big brand sustainability is altering the power relations within global supply chains, and the governance prospects and limits of this trend. The authors argue that recent brand company efforts through their global supply chains, while still a long way off from their goals, are achieving environmental gains in product design and production. Yet, these advances are also fundamentally limited. Total environmental impacts of consumption are increasing as brand companies leverage corporate sustainability for competitive advantage, business growth, and increased sales. Big brand sustainability, while important, will not on its own resolve the problems of global environmental change. In conclusion, the article highlights the importance of a co-regulatory governance approach that includes stronger state regulations, sustained advocacy, more responsible individual consumerism, and tougher international legal constraints to go beyond the business gains from big brand sustainability to achieve more transformational, ‘absolute’ global environmental progress.

A paragraph from the conclusions:

“Big brand governance …can – and is – improving the quality of some products and some processes. At the same time, however, brand MNCs are an engine of a world economy that within the current institutional paradigm must keep growing to function. …. With the rise of big brand sustainability, private authority is increasing in importance within the transnational governance system. This is increasing the speed and scale of governance capacity. But fundamentally it is only changing the rules of the game (i.e., how products are produced), not the game itself (i.e., the economic model). Such a conclusion demonstrates the ongoing, if not increasingly greater, need for a shared governance approach – including stronger state regulations, sustained social pressure, more responsible individual consumerism, and tougher international legal constraints on all multinational corporations – to go beyond the business gains of big brand sustainability to achieve more transformational environmental governance progress.”

The paper (subscription access only) is available here.

Paper: Trade liberalisation and its implications for land use, GHG emissions and food

This paper runs a series of future trade liberalisation scenarios using the MAGPIE model and finds that while trade liberalisation lowers food costs it does so at the expense of higher GHG emissions.

Reference and abstract as follows:

Schmitz C, Biewald A, Lotze-Campen H, Popp A, Dietrich J P, Bodirsky B, Krause M and Weindl I (2012). Trading more food: Implications for land use, greenhouse gas emissions, and the food system, Global Environmental Change, 22, 1, 189–209

The volume of agricultural trade increased by more than ten times throughout the past six decades and is likely to continue with high rates in the future. Thereby, it largely affects environment and climate. We analyse future trade scenarios covering the period of 2005–2045 by evaluating economic and environmental effects using the global land-use model MAgPIE (“Model of Agricultural Production and its Impact on the Environment”). This is the first trade study using spatially explicit mapping of land use patterns and greenhouse gas emissions. We focus on three scenarios: the reference scenario fixes current trade patterns, the policy scenario follows a historically derived liberalisation pathway, and the liberalisation scenario assumes a path, which ends with full trade liberalisation in 2045.

Further trade liberalisation leads to lower global costs of food. Regions with comparative advantages like Latin America for cereals and oil crops and China for livestock products will export more. In contrast, regions like the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia face the highest increases of imports. Deforestation, mainly in Latin America, leads to significant amounts of additional carbon emissions due to trade liberalisation. Non-CO2 emissions will mostly shift to China due to comparative advantages in livestock production and rising livestock demand in the region. Overall, further trade liberalisation leads to higher economic benefits at the expense of environment and climate, if no other regulations are put in place.

Some additional useful paragraphs:

According to FAO 71 million ha of land have been converted into cropland in the period of 1990–2000 and 225 million ha in the period of 960–2000 (FAOSTAT, 2009). Our model results show that without further regulation of deforestation, future cropland expansion mainly takes place in ecologically sensitive areas of the tropical rainforest. In the reference scenario total cropland expansion (2005–2045) in the three main rainforest areas, the Amazonian rainforest (178 mill ha), the Central African rainforest (137 mill ha) and the rainforest on the Pacific islands (37 mill ha) amounts to 410 mill ha or 23% of the global cropland area in 2005. Under trade liberalisation this increases further by 175 mill ha (policy) and 198 million ha (liberalisation), mainly in the Amazonian rainforest.

Total deforestation related carbon emissions rise by 50 Gt CO2 in the policy scenario and 74 Gt in the liberalisation scenario until 2050 compared to the reference scenario. Total non-CO2 emissions amount to 361 Gt CO2 in the reference scenario and it increases only slightly with more trade. In terms of regional distribution, emissions in China rise since livestock production shifts from Africa to China due to comparative advantages. Although domestic demand for livestock products increases considerably, China will dominate the export market for meat products under more liberalisation..

The study concludes that “economic benefits are generated at the costs of the environment. If we just consider additional GHG emissions produced by increased trade (and ignore other local environmental damages), it amounts to 52 Gt of additional GHG emissions in the policy scenario and more than 76 Gt in the liberalisation scenario. The figures are mainly triggered by increased CO2 emissions from deforestation in Latin America since non-CO2 emissions.”

You can download the paper here (subscription access only).

Paper on the effects of resource efficiency on GHG emissions

This paper looks at both production and consumption side resource efficiency measures focusing on a range of measures as summarised in this table:

Reference and abstract as follows:

Barrett J and Scott K (2012). Link between climate change mitigation and resource efficiency: A UK case study, Global Environmental Change, 22, 1, 299–307

This paper provides an in-depth analysis of the links between dematerialisation and climate change mitigation. Methods used for material flow analyses (MFA) within the wider context of industrial ecology (which includes a focus on all resource flows in an economy, not purely material tonnage) tend to focus either on detoxification and pollution reduction or dematerialisation and resource productivity. An environmentally extended input–output (EEIO) model incorporates both aspects, which need to be dealt with when looking at how to meet challenging greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets. The approach understands both production systems and consumption patterns and has the ability through scenarios to analyse the (GHG) effectiveness of a wide range of material efficiency options. This analysis adopts an environmentally extended input–output approach to assess the role of material efficiency measures in reducing UK GHG emissions by 2050. A method for projecting the variables and parameters in the model, including the supply of and demand for materials and products, is presented and applied to investigate thirteen material efficiency strategies in the UK.

A  couple of food relevant paragraphs and conclusions:

“… the food sector is clearly one area where significant reductions in emissions are possible. Changing diets to reduce meat consumption can save 846 million tonnes and ensuring that edible food is not treated as waste, a GHG emission reduction of about 456 million tonnes is possible by 2050. Changing diets clearly achieves a larger reduction, mainly because it achieves a reduction in meat processing, one of the most carbon intensive sectors in the UK. The strategy assumes that household meat consumption reduces by a quarter by 2020, 50% by 2050 and 75% by 2050 (Quick Win, Best Practice and Beyond Best Practice respectively). It does not assume that this is substituted by another food type as the average UK diet would benefit from reduced calorie intake. Achieving such a large shift in consumer preferences is not an easy task, but simple steps can be taken in the short term, for example vegetarian events catering, with the government leading by example.”


“Compared to production-side strategies, consumption-side strategies are able to influence a wider scope of emissions due to the inclusion of emissions embodied in imports and the UK’s projected increasing reliance on trade. Product optimisation, product lifetime extension and dietary changes are three key strategies that will contribute to improving material efficiency. The earlier these strategies are taken up, the lesser emissions will cumulate in the atmosphere. Due to the scale of reductions needed every sector needs to play its part in reducing emissions (and the sooner the better), however some quite radical changes were introduced with minimal impact, demonstrating that improving the material efficiency of goods and service sectors have a fairly limited role in climate change compared to that of say energy and transport. However, the uncertainty associated with future energy technologies means that short term measures play a critical role in managing emissions now and leading the UK on a low carbon transition pathway.”
You can download the paper here (subscription access only).
This is actually a journal summary of a report that was commissioned and published by WRAP a while back – see here for an FCRN summary.

Paper: What next for agriculture after Durban?

Beddington J R, Asaduzzaman M, Clark M E, Fernández Bremauntz A, Guillou M D, Howlett D J B, Jahn M M, Lin E, Mamo T, Negra C, Nobre C A, Scholes R J, van Bo N and Wakhungu J (2012). What Next for Agriculture After Durban? Science, 335 289-290

This article analyses s of why progress on agriculture at Durban was slow, and summarises the recommendations of the  Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change (see FCRN summary) as to what is needed for agriculture now:

  • Integrate food security and sustainable agriculture into global and national policies, including adaptation and mitigation;
  • Increase global investment in sustainable agriculture and food systems;
  • Sustainably intensify agricultural production while reducing emissions and other environmental impacts;
  • Target programs and policies to assist vulnerable populations;
  • Reshape food access and consumption to ensure that basic nutritional needs are met and to foster healthy and sustainable eating habits;
  • Reduce food loss and waste across supply chains; and

Create comprehensive information systems on human and ecological dimensions.
It concludes by suggesting a range of ways in which the science community can help contribute to policy progress on agricultural adaptation and mitigation.

You can read the paper here (subscription access only). CCAFS, the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security programme of the CGIAR reports on the paper here.

Book: Climate Change, Assets and Food Security in Southern African Cities

Edited by Bruce Frayne, Caroline Moser and Gina Ziervogel, this new book is published by Earthscan (now part of Routledge). Details as follows:

There is overwhelming evidence that the climate is changing. It is the poorest countries and people who are the most vulnerable to this threat and who will suffer the most. This book shows how increasing urbanisation and growing poverty levels mean that it is imperative to ask how climate change might impact on asset accumulation and food security for the urban poor. It demonstrates how these three, often separate foci, can be brought together to frame a holistic urban adaptation approach. The authors explore the urban climate change nexus linking asset adaptation, climate change science and food security through several case study cities. These include Cape Town, George and Khara Hais (South Africa), Lusaka (Zambia), Maputo (Mozambique), Mombasa (Kenya) and Harare (Zimbabwe). The results shed light on how this nexus might be explored from different perspectives, both theoretical and practical, in order to plan for a more resilient future. Although the book concentrates on southern African cities, the insights which are presented can be used to understand other urban centres in low and middle-income countries outside of this region and around the world.

For more details see here. FCRN members may purchase the book directly from the publishers at 20% discount, by entering the discount code AF20 at the checkout.

Job advertisement: SCI Senior Research Fellows/Research Fellows/Post-doctoral Fellows

The Sustainable Consumption Institute at the University of Manchester is now accepting applications for Senior Research Fellows/Research Fellows/Post-doctoral Fellows working on the following themes:

  • Renewable energy
  • Water resources
  • Sustainable consumer behaviour
  • Stimulating sustainable eco-innovation
  • Climate change, mitigation, and adaptation

For more information see here. The deadline for applications is 31/01/2012.

Conference: Sustainable lifestyles: great theory, impossible practice

7th February 2012, 6.30-8pm, Conference Centre, British Library, London.

Pressure on the world’s resources means people are increasingly encouraged to consume less power, water, even food. But few people make more than minimal efforts to change their behaviour. What do we expect from government? This event will explore how evidence can help the development of policies to help us move towards more sustainable lifestyles. Speakers are Professor Dale Southerton, Director, Sustainable Practices Research Group, University of Manchester and Ian Christie, Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey. The event will be chaired by Dr Astrid Wissenburg, Director of Partnerships and Communications, ESRC. For more information see here.

Conference: Knowledge Gaps PhD Conference 2012 - How are you tackling it?

11th April - 13th April 2012

This event is intended as an opportunity for climate change PhD researchers to present their own research.  The conference organisers explicitly encourage papers that discuss interdisciplinary approaches, innovative methodologies, and policy application to global environmental challenges in the context of climate change in a way which is easily understandable for non-specialists.

For more information see here.

Fair Trade International Symposium

Liverpool Hope Business School 2nd-4th April 2012, Liverpool, UK

The question which will be explored during this Fourth Fair Trade International Symposium is the following: how can Fair Trade concretely connect producers and consumers, as well as other stakeholders, along fair and sustainable supply chains? As the Montpellier symposium explored, Fair Trade has known an unprecedented growth and mainstreaming over the last decade, translating into dramatic increases in sales and public awareness. However, many questions remain for both practitioners and academics about the potential of Fair Trade to continue growing, whilst at the same time, achieving its aims of transforming globalisation.  A specific question in this debate concerns the ability of Fair Trade to grow and institutionalise without increasing the distance between the different stakeholders involved, especially between producers and consumers.

For more information see here.