New data on Greenhouse Gas emissions Intensities

Rome, January 2017

FAO released in FAOSTAT new data on emissions intensities. This new data domain provides basic information on the amount of greenhouse gases emitted per unit agricultural product, within the farm gate, for meat, milk, eggs, rice and other cereals, by country and year, over the period 1961-2014. They are based on FAOSTAT emissions and production data, and will be updated each year as new data for the underlying statistics become available. 

A first synthesis of the FAO Emissions Intensities data, limited to global trends, was published by IPCC in the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5 Working Group III, Ch. 11; IPCC 2014) and were discussed in the scientific paper (Tubiello et al., 2012). The new data released by FAO expand those initial efforts, facilitating analyses of regional and national trends. These data provide a basis to compare emissions associated to specific products, across countries and over time, applying a consistent methodology in a transparent manner. More elaborate analyses should nonetheless consider the full impact of these commodities over the entire product life cycle (e.g., FAO, 2014).

The figures below provide examples of the type of analysis that can be carried out with these data. The graphs plot greenhouse gas intensity against productivity, which is a combined measure of production efficiency and environmental impact. The graph on the left shows greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of milk produced, plotted against the kilograms of milk produced annually by dairy cow. The graph on the right shows greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of eggs, plotted against the kilograms of eggs produced annually by hen. Each dot represents a country, color-coded by continent. Both graphs above show diminishing emissions intensity as productivity increases—an expected dynamic well captured by the data in cases when the analysis is limited to producing animals and their commodities (dairy cows for milk and laying hen for eggs).

When the relationship between a given agricultural commodity and the underlying livestock herd is expanded to non-producing animals, however, the link between intensity and productivity may become more complex. As an example, the graph below shows the case when greenhouse gas emissions corresponding to non-dairy cattle are used to compute the emission intensity per kilogram of meat produced, and plotted against the kilograms of meat produced annually. 

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