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Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Animal Food Chain

Rationale

Evidence of climate change and the impact of human activity on greenhouse gas emissions is now overwhelming. Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production are expected to rise over the coming decades due to increasing global population and shifting diets unless appropriate mitigation strategies are implemented.  While important steps have been made in the recent past, the impact of livestock production on the environment, in particular on climate change, is still not well understood. 

The high level of emissions from the sector provides a window of opportunity for climate change mitigation by the livestock sector. In fact, emissions from livestock systems can be reduced significantly through technologies, policies, and the provision of adequate incentives for their implementation. Policy makers and producers are however faced with a lack of information about the relative contribution of animal food chains, and about emission hotspots within the chain.

Objectives

The overall objective of this assessment is to present a breakdown the overall sectoral contribution to GHG emissions by commodity, production system and geographical region and develop a process-based understanding of the impacts of the livestock sector.

Specific objectives are to:

  • develop a methodology based on the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach applicable to the global livestock sector; and
  • apply this methodology to assess and provide insights into GHG emissions from the livestock sector disaggregated by commodity, species, production system and geographical region.  

The assessment focuses on GHG emissions (notably carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) and adopts a food chain approach, assessing emissions from the cradle to the grave. 

Results

To-date the LCL model developed has been applied to the dairy cattle sector. Results of this first assessment are presented in the report ‘Greenhouse gas emissions from the dairy sector: A Life Cycle Assessment’. This report is one of a series intended to communicate research results and improve public understanding of climate issues, thereby contributing to informed debate about the sector’s contribution to GHG emissions.

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