Climate Change

Finding climate solutions in the livestock sector

Five key takeaways from FAO regional workshops on climate action in the livestock sector


05/11/2020

Over 80 government officials from more than 35 countries from Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean joined the four regional workshops, which provided a space for countries to exchange experiences and discuss how the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) can support climate actions on livestock while delivering the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The workshops were organized by FAO’s Animal Production and Health Division (NSA) and Office of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Environment (OCB), in collaboration with the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (RLC), and Sub-regional Offices for Mesoamerica (SLM), Eastern Africa (SFE), West Africa (SFW) and Southern Africa (SFS). 

Sustainable livestock management is an essential part of the solution to climate change

Livestock systems are crucial for food security and livelihoods and support the resilience of hundreds of millions of rural people across the world. They are, however, a major source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, accounting for nearly 14.5 percent of the total. Hence, there is a need to balance the benefits of animal-source foods and livelihoods of livestock keepers, with the urgent need to limit the global temperature increase to below two degrees Celsius. Through the adoption of best management practices, the sector can reduce its environmental impacts and become more efficient in the use of natural resources while ensuring food security. FAO estimates that improved management practices alone could reduce net emissions from livestock systems by about 30 percent. Furthermore, FAO has outlined five practical actions towards low-carbon livestock to support national climate action.

Five takeaways from the workshops  

1.      Countries identified best practices for climate action in the livestock sector

During the workshops several best practices such as manure management systems, animal health, renewable energy production and integrated systems (e.g. silvopastoral) were identified as options to make livestock systems more productive and efficient, and thereby reduce GHG emissions. For example, the restoration of degraded lands and prevention of wildfires, among others, can enhance carbon sequestration in soils. However, the scale-up and adoption of these practices is challenged by inadequate technical and institutional capacities, weak legal frameworks and limited access to finance. 

2.      More capacity development and awareness raising are necessary

Many countries highlighted the need for increased capacity development and technical training in several areas, including climate-smart livestock practices, innovative technologies and institutional strengthening. When it comes to the measurement of GHG emissions, capacity development is needed on data collection, methods to estimate GHG emissions, methods and metrics that capture the complexity of livestock systems, and further development of accounting tools as required in Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) and the Enhanced Transparency Framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  More awareness raising among stakeholders on the links between climate change and livestock production is also needed. 

3.    Accessing climate finance is challenging for many countries

Based on analysis of the portfolio of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and Green Climate Fund (GCF), the livestock sector receives less funding compared to other sectors that are more attractive for investment and demonstrate net emission reduction targets. Furthermore, one challenge for most countries is Measurement, Reporting and Verification of livestock emissions to track and demonstrate progress towards a mitigation target. Nonetheless, the sector’s advantage of being both a sink and a source of GHG emissions offers many entry points to access finance, especially through integrated and multi-disciplinary projects. 

4.      Healthy animals provide multiple benefits for climate change mitigation

A changing climate has consequences on animal health and performance. Healthy animals contribute to food security and household incomes, which are the foundation for financial and economic systems that make farmers more resilient in the face of crises such as long drought or COVID-19. This pandemic, for instance, has caused the loss of livestock assets and reduced pastoral mobility. It has also disrupted market supply leading to the extreme vulnerability and poverty of rural livestock farmers while hindering mitigation efforts. 

5.      The Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture can catalyse action

The workshop series resulted in a better understanding and increased awareness of how the KJWA can mobilize climate action in the livestock sector. Addressing climate action in the livestock sector requires a joint global effort and a holistic approach to climate change, agriculture and food security. Livestock cannot and should not be addressed in isolation. The KJWA has huge potential in enabling the livestock sector to contribute to climate action by mobilizing knowledge, technology, finance and capacity.The process offers good opportunities for countries to exchange views and experiences related to the inclusion of livestock in their national climate actions. For instance, more than 80 countries have considered livestock in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) either for adaptation or mitigation measures. 

Conclusions and next steps 

Views and experiences shared in the workshops will be summarized in a policy brief to inform further discussions on KJWA topic 2(e) – ‘Improved livestock management systems including agro-pastoral systems’. Stay tuned for other updates and a meeting report about the webinar series! 

This work was possible thanks to the support of the “Boosting Koronivia” project, funded by the Government of Germany.

Useful links

Website: Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture
Website: Livestock and the environment