Knowledge for better food systems

The Alcohol we drink and its contribution to the UK's Greenhouse Gas emissions: A discussion paper

This paper looks at the alcohol we consume here in the UK. It considers whether we can quantify in ‘good enough’ terms the contribution that our alcohol consumption makes to the UK’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

The focus is on the main three categories of alcoholic drink; beer, wine and spirits. Each of these are explored in turn to see what we know about their life cycle impacts and whether there are particular life stages where the GHG impacts are particularly intensive. It also considers whether we might be able to generalise as to whether one particular beverage is more GHG intensive, per alcoholic unit consumed, than another. Following this analysis, the options for emissions reduction are briefly considered. First the technological scope for improving efficiency is explored and here the focus is largely on drinks which can be and are produced in the UK. Wine is excluded from consideration since the vast majority is produced overseas. Next the discussion focuses on behaviour change. It looks at how much people drink, how this relates to current health drinking guidelines and how the overall greenhouse gas impacts of alcohol consumption might change were we to consume within the recommended limits. Finally the paper presents some conclusions. 

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Europe is the world's second-smallest continent by surface area, covering just over 10 million square kilometres or 6.8% of the global land area, but it is the third-most populous continent after Asia and Africa, with a population of around 740 million people or about 11% of the world's population. Its climate is heavily affected by warm Atlantic currents that temper winters and summers on much of the continent. In the European Union, farmers represent only 4.7% of the working population, yet manage nearly half of its land area.

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