A review of tools for modelling in national estimation of livestock emissions


Accounting for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals remain challenging for many countries who are signatories to the Paris Agreement. Increased obligations have stimulated initiatives to assist countries in the collection of activity data, but have also led to the development of diverse models and software for estimating and reporting on GHG emissions and removals related to Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU).

During a recent series of regional workshops co-organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gasses (GRA) , participating countries expressed interest in having access to such tools, particularly in the context of measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) reporting. In response, the GRA, with the support of FAO and other partners, is engaging with a number of representative countries to further develop the available accounting software and models and to collect and share improved activity data.

As a first step in making the different models and accounting software more accurate, transparent and useable, from 21-23 January 2020, FAO and GRA co-facilitated a consultative workshop hosted in Bali by the Indonesian Center for Animal Research and Development (ICARD) and co-organized by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) , the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC) .

Bringing together a diverse set of countries of actual and potential users and the technical experts behind a variety of greenhouse gas (GHG) assessment models and accounting tools, the workshop aimed to:

  • review the requirements of countries in reporting and acting upon their NDCs;
  • review the available tools and assess the software and model developments required in response to identified country needs, and
  • discuss the need, and a strategy, for the collection of improved regional and national data on estimating livestock emissions.

Delegates from Kenya, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Uruguay, and Ecuador were in these national consultations where they discussed their countries’ needs in terms of tools, data collection and management, coordination and capacity development.

The review of available tools and software included the FAO Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model (GLEAM), the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Comprehensive Livestock and Aquaculture Environmental Assessment for Improved Nutrition (CLEANED), the Colorado State University Agriculture and Land Use National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Software (ALU), the ACIAR System for Land-Based Emissions in Kenya (SLEEK-FLINT), the AgResearch OVERSEER model, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) RUMINANT and CLEM models. Through the analysis and discussion of the requirements, it was agreed that the desired functionality of tools included that they should:

  • be easy to use yet flexible and customizable (e.g. conserved in core areas such as the IPCC equations, and flexible in other areas such as production system definitions;
  • be able to capture whole systems (i.e. be capable of full lifecycle assessment);
  • be applicable at different scales;
  • be able to account for uncertainty; and
  • allow for the analysis of scenarios and interventions.

In addition, a special focus was put on the FAO LEAP guidelines, acknowledged as providing the reference framework for environmental assessment of feed and livestock production systems. In the context of the Paris Agreement, the FAO LEAP tools are essential to report and monitor progress towards national targets. Voluntary, collectively agreed, and science-based, the FAO LEAP technical documents represent global reference methods built to estimate the GHG emissions and other environmental impacts from the livestock sector.

With regards data, the participants considered that data systems should be integrated, compliant to standards (e.g. for data collection and data management), spatially explicit, and available at different levels (e.g. farm, production system, country or region); as well as should accommodate diverse parameter types (e.g. animal numbers, feed, and manure).

In summary, capacity development needs identified included: data processing, collection and management, use of models and software, cross-sectoral coordination, herd structure modelling, and training on GHG estimation and inventory.

Regarding the next steps to be taken, it was agreed that countries would review their capacities for inventory work, clarify what is in their NDCs regarding livestock, and map out what has been done versus any commitments made. It was also considered important that countries would scope existing projects and publish the information on the MRV Platform for Agriculture. This would help with identifying specific countries’ needs and therefore the types of support that should be provided by GRA and FAO.

In the upcoming months, FAO will also assist the GRA with the development and the implementation of national projects aimed at the road testing of the FAO LEAP guidelines in Kenya, Indonesia, and Costa Rica.