The global food system is a major energy user and a relevant contributor to climate change. To date, the literature on the energy profile of food systems addresses individual countries and/or food products, and therefore a comparable assessment across regions is still missing. This paper uses a global multi‐regional environmentally extended input–output database in combination with newly constructed net energy‐use accounts to provide a production and consumption‐based stock‐take of energy use in the food system across different world regions for the period 2000–2015.
Overall, the ratio between energy use in the food system and the economy is slowly decreasing. Likewise, the absolute values point toward a relative decoupling between energy use and food production, as well as to relevant differences in energy types, users, and consumption patterns across world regions.
The use of (inefficient) traditional biomass for cooking substantially reduces the expected gap between per capita figures in high‐ and low‐income countries. The variety of energy profiles and the higher exposure to energy security issues compared to the total economy in some regions suggests that interventions in the system should consider the geographical context. Reducing energy use and decarbonizing the supply chains of food products will require a combination of technological measures and behavioral changes in consumption patterns. Interventions should consider the effects beyond the direct effects on energy use, because changing production and consumption patterns in the food system can lead to positive spillovers in the social and environmental dimensions outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals.
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