Qatar is one of the countries with the highest carbon (C) footprints per capita in the world with an increasing population and food demand. Furthermore, the international blockade by some countries that is affecting Qatar – which has been traditionally a highly-dependent country on food imports – since 2017 has led the authorities to take the decision of increasing food self-sufficiency. In this study we have assessed the effect on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of shifting diets from conventional to organic products and from import-based diets to more regionalized diets for the first time in a Gulf country.
We found that considering the production system, the majority of the emissions come from the animal products, but the differences between conventional and organic diets are very small (738 and 722 Kg CO2-eq capita-1 yr-1, of total emissions, respectively). Conversely, total emissions from plant-based products consumption are one order of magnitude smaller, but the differences in the emissions between the two systems were higher, leading to a decrease in 88 Kg CO2-eq capita-1 yr-1 when changing from conventional to organic consumption. Regarding the change to 100% regionalized diets, we found that packaging has a small influence on the total amount of GHG emissions, whereas emissions from transportation would be reduced in 780Kg CO2 capita-1 yr-1 for the business as usual scenario of 2015.
Due to the extreme adverse pedoclimatic conditions of the country, commercial organic regional livestock would not be possible without emitting very high GHG emissions and just only some traditional livestock species could be farmed in a climate-friendly way. On the other hand, organic and regional low-CO2 emission systems of plant-based products would be possible by implementing innovations in irrigation or other innovations whose GHG emissions must be further studied in the future. Therefore, we conclude that shifting towards more plant-based organic regional products consumption by using climate-friendly irrigation innovations in combination with a decrease in the total meat and dairy consumption and a shift to traditional livestock species farming is a suitable solution to both increasing self-sufficiency and reducing C footprint.