Nordic countries “have set out to prove that the simple act of eating may be our best tool in the fight against climate change, as well as other great global crises like public health and inequality,” Swedish Environment Minister Karolina Skog writes, in a recent opinion piece for Newsweek.
Food systems account for 20 to 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, Skog notes. And “while agricultural practices can—and should—be improved to reduce emissions and ecological harm, research shows that production-side policies alone won’t be enough to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. What we eat and how we eat will also need to change,” which means turning to dinner tables, school cafeterias, and restaurants for consumer decisions that can help restore human and planetary health.
In the Nordic countries, “one of the first lessons we’ve learned is that by focusing on diets and meals, instead of just nutrition, we have a more holistic vision of what and how we eat,” Skog explains. “We can then devise better policies that integrate environment, social needs, and nutrition. Our diets are shifting in turn, becoming more sustainable and healthier.”
And while different regions have their own cultural traditions related to food, policy can still “directly influence how we get our food, what we eat, and even how much we waste. It can help steer us away from unhealthy options, and can help encourage us to buy and prepare food that is better for the climate, safer for food labourers, and healthier for our communities.”
The Nordic cooperation, of which Sweden is a member, has rolled a collection of two dozen policy tools into a Solutions Menu that Skog says produces an “à la carte” approach to the issue, “but leaves the exact recipes up to local experts to devise. Various solutions in the menu speak to nutrition and food waste and environmental sustainability, and also to public food and meals and to food culture itself.” She adds that food culture “has long been overlooked by policy-makers, but is finally getting the attention it deserves.”