The relationship between nutrition and climate is becoming a central driver for achieving sustainable development, as demonstrated by the launch of the Initiative on Climate Action and Nutrition (I-CAN) at COP27, the first United Nations Climate Change Conference to have a Food Systems Pavilion. The new initiative is a partnership between Egypt (as COP27 Presidency), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and other UN agencies and partners, to provide support on policies and actions that reduce climate change and improve nutrition.
An opportunity for countries to meet nutritional and climate targets is through food-based dietary guidelines (FBDG). Historically, FBDG focused primarily on improving populational health and nutritional intake. However, more countries are utilizing FBDG to promote healthy and sustainable dietary patterns, as evident from two different approaches coming out of Europe.
Nordic Nutrition Recommendations 2022
In June 2023, the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations 2022 (NNR2022) are due to be released, which for the first time, will focus on sustainability and environmental issues, as requested by The Nordic Council of Ministers. The specific updates to the dietary guidelines are unknown, however, it is reported that they will take a comprehensive approach, including the three pillars of sustainability (economic, environmental and social).
Those involved in the NNR2022 project hope that the implementation of healthy and sustainable diets in the Nordic population, which includes Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, can be used as a model for implementation in other countries as well.
Spain’s Sustainable Dietary Recommendations
The Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (AESAN) has also released new FBDG, developed to align and contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and provide the Spanish population with information on how to follow healthy and sustainable dietary patterns.
The guidelines include a maximum recommended amount for meat (3 servings/week), eggs (4 eggs/week) and dairy products (3 servings/day) and suggest reducing the number of daily servings of dairy products if other foods of animal origin are consumed. The guidelines also recommend a maximum consumption of fish (3 servings/week) and suggest prioritizing ‘blue fish’, which includes oily fish, and species with less environmental impact.
The Future of FBDG
The creation of I-CAN highlights how global NGOs view nutrition and climate as a harmonized approach to achieving sustainable development and improving nutrition. The new FBDG from Spain and the Nordics demonstrate how countries are also following this approach, and it could be predicted that more countries will include climate targets in future FBDG. In turn, how nutrition is communicated could evolve from balanced diets to healthy and sustainable diets.
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About the Author
Emily Stephens, RNutr, BSc
Emily is a Registered Nutritionist based in the UK, and before joining Eat Well Global, she gained experience working in the charitable sector, retail, and workforce nutrition. Sustainability is a key interest of Emily’s, and she is currently undertaking an MSc in Sustainable Development in Practice, with the aspiration of merging her nutrition expertise with sustainability to contribute positively towards achieving a sustainable food system.