Tackling climate change through livestock: A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities

Tackling climate change through livestock: A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities

Comprehensive FAO study on livestock-related GHG emissions, and the sector's climate change mitigation potential.

It has been known for several years that livestock supply chains are an important contributor to climate change. Yet, despite existing and attainable potential to significantly reduce these greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, political will and the right policies are still required. This report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation seeks to provide the much-needed evidence-base that will allow the process of reform to move forward.

The paper begins by way of an introduction and explanation of the methodologies used in the study. These include the use of the Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model (GLEAM), and the modeling of carbon sequestration potential in grasslands. The paper then goes on to paint the aggregate picture, providing a broad overview which includes overall GHG emissions, as well as by species, commodities and region, and the main sources of GHG emissions in livestock supply chains. It is estimated that the GHG emissions herein represent around 14.5 per cent of all human-induced GHG emissions, with beef and cattle milk making up 41 and 20 per cent of this respectively. Methane from rumination plays a significant role.

Following this, empirical evidence and analysis on the scale of emissions is presented broken down by major species: cattle; buffalo; sheep and goats; pigs; and chicken. Key findings include that in the Caribbean and Latin America, one-third of emissions through beef production stems from pasture extension into forested areas, and that chicken meat and eggs have low emission intensities compared to other livestock products.

The report goes on to identify the climate mitigation potential of various technologies, and that of carbon sequestration. The potential of these are examined by region, before a number of mitigation case studies are presented from Asia, Africa, and the OECD.

Finally, the implications for policy-making are outlined, beginning with a brief description of mitigation policy approaches. Included amongst many key messages are that: mitigation interventions can serve both development and environmental objectives; supportive policies, adequate institutional frameworks, and proactive governance are needed to help the sector fulfill its mitigation potential; and the size and complexity of the issue requires concerted global and multi-stakeholder cooperation to implement cost-effective and equitable mitigation strategies and policies.

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