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  • Henning Steinfeld
    Chief, Livestock Information, Sector Analysis and Policy Branch (AGAL)
    FAO HQ, Room C-542
    Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
    Rome 00153, Italy
    Tel: +39 06 570 54751
  • Henning.Steinfeld@fao.org


Livestock sector can help fight climate change
Statement of the Intergovernmental Group on Meat and Dairy Products

FAOs Intergovernmental Group on Meat and Dairy Products has recommended that countries should coordinate their livestock policies and practices to help the sector achieve its full potential in mitigating climate change.


The Intergovernmental Group said in a statement that the livestock industry needs to take steps to reduce the high level of its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions as well as to adapt to climate change.


Counting the complete food chain involved in meat and dairy production and distribution, up to 18 percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions is produced by these activities. Potential for mitigation is therefore considerable.


Major opportunities relate to manure management, animal productivity, feed efficiency, and carbon sequestration in soil and vegetation. The techniques involved often also contribute to the adaptation of the sector to climate change.


Promising options

  • Substantial benefits for instance can be gained from restoring pastures that have been degraded as is the case in 70 percent pastoral ecosystems in Latin America and the Caribbean. Improved vegetation cover and better grass species can help build up carbon in the system, contribute to limiting deforestation and improve animal efficiency (i.e. less methane is produced per unit of milk or meat).
  • Promising advances are also being made in the field of biodigesters, which are increasingly being used to extract methane from manure and other organic matter. Methane, which is 25 times as climate-warming as CO2, can be burned to provide electricity for national grids or to run engines or cooling equipment on farm. There are a reported 21 million biodigesters in China alone. The amount of manure potentially available as feedstock for biodigesters may be estimated at over 1 billion tonnes a year.

The statement called for national and global action to better address livestock and agriculture at large in the climate negotiations at Copenhagen and beyond. It also identified research gaps and investments and capacity-building requirements to capture the sectors potential to mitigate GHG emissions.


Monitoring, reporting and verification, as well as policy analysis and technology development and transfer were seen as priority areas.