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How sugar taxes can benefit both human and planetary health

Sugar taxation keeps growing in popularity. Within Europe alone, several countries have implemented sugar taxes or levies, including Belgium. Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Monaco, Norway, Portugal, and the united kingdom.

For probably the most past, these countries taxes connect with carbonated carbonated drinks containing sugar, however, many also have incorporated sweetened milk, juice, and artificially sweetened beverages in to the legislation.

Such taxation has been driven by public health issues. The overconsumption of sugar has been associated with multiple medical issues including diabetes and obesity.

Research out from the UK suggests a substantial level of sugar has been taken off consumers diets because the CARBONATED DRINKS Industry Levy was initially announced just as much as nearly 6,500 calories from carbonated drinks yearly per UK resident.

Less publicised will be the great things about sugar reduction on environmental sustainability.

Yet, in a fresh study, researchers Lewis King and Jeroen van den Bergh from the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autnoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) argue that converting existing sugar cropland for alternative uses can significantly reduce carbon emissions.

Sugar for biofuel, not consumption

Specifically, the duo is thinking about switching sugar consumption to (bio)ethanol production, that could reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by displacing petroleum.

Biofuels are believed a significant tool in the climate change mitigation toolbox. However, they’re not without risk. Biofuel production can place pressure on other targets, explained the researchers in the analysis, including food security, biodiversity, and the way to obtain affordable and reliable energy.

It’s been estimated that globally achieving not merely basic needs, such as for example food and electricity, but additionally qualitative goals, such as for example improve life span, would need a resource use two to six times beyond the amount of the planetary boundaries.

For this reason King and van den Bergh are concentrating on redirecting existing sugar cropland to ethanol production, instead of increasing land-use.

A recently available study has suggested that final stage petroleum could have an energy profits on return (EROI) of around 8:1. From the net energy perspective, sugar cane ethanol is considered to provide a fairly competitive alternative to petroleum.

While ethanol obtained from sugar beet includes a lower EROI of around 3, it really is still greater than most estimates for corn ethanol and contains the minimal level arguably considered essential to be beneficial to society.

Afforestation and ethanol production in Europe

Since it stands, people in the EU consume around 102.1g of sugar each day. THE PLANET Health Organization (WHO) recommends sugar should constitute significantly less than 10% of daily calorie consumption and believes than lowering to 5% – or even to 25g each day may have additional benefits.

To limit health impacts of sugar reduction, therefore, the ICTA-UAB researchers argue the EU ought to be targeting a 75.5% decrease in sugar consumption.

If this were to be performed, it could create a surplus production of 12.54Mt of sugar yearly. Sustainability co-benefits could possibly be realised out of this excess production, noted the analysis authors.

sugar beet fotografixx

If the EU afforested its excess sugar beet cropland, GHG could possibly be reduced directly from the low life-cycle emissions in the sugar industry. GettyImages/fotografixx

If the EU afforested its excess sugar beet cropland to offset GHG emissions, the researchers estimate 1.32 Mha could possibly be freed up for afforestation arguably the best carbon mitigation potential. In this scenario, GHG emissions will be reduced directly from the low life-cycle emissions in the sugar industry and indirectly, through forest carbon sequestration, they explained.

Forestation of agricultural lands may also improve biodiversity, nutrient cycling and water cycling.

The EU afforestation scenario would create a mean net reduced amount of 9.74 Mt CO2e each year.

beet sugar ollo

Ethanol obtained from sugar beet comes with an energy profits on return (EROI) of around 3:1. GettyImages/ollo

If the EU used its 12.54 Mt/yr excess sugar beet production for ethanol purposes, it might be prepared to produce 3.26-6.52 megatonnes of oil exact carbon copy of ethanol from the excess 1.32 Mha focused on its production, estimate the researchers.

In this scenario, directl life-cycle emissions from sugar production woould reduction in line with the EU afforestation scenario, but these will be offset by the life-cycle emissions connected with ethanol production.

However, indirect emission reductions may also be realised through displaced petroleum demand and its own associated life-cycle emissions, they continued, adding that no land use, land use change and forestry emission changes are assumed considering that the same level of cropland would be used.

This scenario will be except to yield higher savings of 20.11Mt CO2e each year.

The Brazil ethanol scenario

The 3rd scenario investigated by the King and van den Bergh they coin the Brazil ethanol scenario. If the EU continues to create just as much sugar since it happens to be, but exports the 12.54 Mt excess rather than eating it domestically, this might result in lower global demand.

Brazil, subsequently, would reduce its sugar production by 12.54 Mt, which may enable this freed-up land to be utilized for ethanol production.

Under this scenario, Brazilian GHG emissions from sugar production would decrease, but these would similarly be offset by those linked to the increased ethanol production. According to the prior scenario, there would also be an indirect decline in GHG life-cycle emissions from displaced petroleum.

This scenario, whereby Brazil produces ethanol rather than the EU, was found to be roughly doubly able to reducing emissions, explain the researchers, with total emissions reductions considered to represent 4.3% of the EU transport sector.

Sugar tax for processed food items

Most of these scenarios are underpinned by way of a significant reduction in sugar consumption over the bloc.

But despite continual public health messaging concerning the negative health impacts of excess sugar consumption, intake per capita has remained remarkably flat in the EU during the last 40 years.

That’s where sugar taxation will come into play, suggest the researchers, and not simply in sugar sweetened beverages. Sugar taxes would have to be implemented across other types of processed foods to attain the full effect, they argue.

Incrementally increasing [sugar reduction] and high taxation rates can are likely involved in reaching the reduction goal, coupled with additional policies targeted at achieving widespread behavioural change, such as for example information campaigns, regulation of advertising or product labels.

sugar AndreyPopov

Sugar taxes would have to be implemented across other types of processed foods, and not simply for sugar sweetened beverages, argue the researchers. GettyImages/AndreyPopov

The researchers think that tackling climate change indirectly, through linking it to health issues, may present a highly effective complement to traditional instruments which still face political hurdles.

Framing climate change around public health in addition has been proven to donate to the general public support for and political feasibility of proposed policies.

Sugar taxation supplies a concrete and practical exemplory case of how this could be achieved with careful policy design.

Source: Nature Sustainability

Sugar taxation for climate and sustainability goals

Published 25 July 2022

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-022-00934-4

Authors: Lewis C. King and Jeroen van den Bergh

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