Reducing motorized transport and increasing active transport (i.e. transport by walking, cycling and other active modes) may reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve health. But, active modes of transport are not zero emitters. We aimed to quantify GHG emissions from food production required to fuel extra physical activity for walking and cycling. We estimate the emissions (in kgCO2e) per kilometre travelled for walking and cycling from energy intake required to compensate for increased energy expenditure, and data on food-related GHG emissions. We assume that persons who shift from passive modes of transport (e.g. driving) have increased energy expenditure that may be compensated with increased food consumption. The GHG emissions associated with food intake required to fuel a kilometre of walking range between 0.05 kgCO2e/km in the least economically developed countries to 0.26 kgCO2e/km in the most economically developed countries. Emissions for cycling are approximately half those of walking. Emissions from food required for walking and cycling are not negligible in economically developed countries which have high dietary-related emissions. There is high uncertainty about the actual emissions associated with walking and cycling, and high variability based on country economic development. Our study highlights the need to consider emissions from other sectors when estimating net-emissions impacts from transport interventions.
Burden of Disease Epidemiology, Equity and Cost-Effectiveness Programme (BODE 3), Department of Public Health, University of Otago (Wellington), 23 Mein Street, Newtown, Wellington, New Zealand. firstname.lastname@example.org.