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Co-benefits of a flexitarian diet for air quality and human health in Europe
Ecological Economics  (IF5.389),  Pub Date : 2021-09-27, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2021.107232
Mihaly Himics, Elias Giannakis, Jonilda Kushta, Jordan Hristov, Amarendra Sahoo, Ignacio Perez-Dominguez

Agriculture is a major source of air pollution in Europe, with adverse impacts on human health. Having recognized the serious health outcomes, and in direct response to public demand for a cleaner environment, European public policies are aiming to reduce air pollution. This study proposes a shift to more plant-based human diets to help achieve bold reduction targets for air pollution from agriculture. To assess the potential reduction in agricultural air pollution, we combine a large-scale partial equilibrium model for agriculture (CAPRI) with an atmospheric chemistry model (WRF-Chem). The health impacts from improved air quality are summarized as premature mortality rates, which are estimated from simulated changes in annual mean PM2.5 concentrations. We find that a shift to plant-based (flexitarian) diets would reduce ammonia emissions by 33% in the European Union (EU), generating significant co-benefits for air quality and human health. The economic benefits from improved human health would also largely mitigate the economic losses in the agricultural sector (39% in the EU and 49% in Europe as a whole). Our results suggest that, by shifting to plant-based human diets, European agriculture could significantly contribute to the targets in the EU Zero Pollution Action Plan.