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  • Livestock and climate change: Animal Change project summary and key policy challenges [PDF]

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  • Anne Mottet
    Livestock Policy Officer
    FAO HQ,
    Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
    00153 Rome, Italy
  • [email protected]
Photo credit: © scpictures - Fotolia.com


FAO and partners identify key policy challenges for livestock and climate change

A new report summarizes the results from the AnimalChange project and presents the key policy challenges identified. The project was supported by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7). The paper benefits from the contributions of a broad group of scientists engaged in AnimalChange, as well as representatives from governments, inter-governmental organizations, private sector organizations and non-governmental organizations. The Animal Production and Health Division of FAO was one of the 23 partners to contribute to the project, as leader of the component on policy implications, with the responsibility to coordinate and edit contributions to the paper.


AnimalChange constituted a unique opportunity to concentrate scientific efforts on the livestock and climate change nexus and confront outcomes with policy makers and stakeholders. The project confirmed the key role livestock can potentially play in mitigating climate change through the development of more productive and resilient – climate smart – food systems. Results revealed that, in the short term, the European livestock sector can make a limited contribution to EU GHG emission reduction efforts, by curbing overall direct emission intensity by about 15 to 20 percent between 2005 and 2025. Production systems in Europe are already relatively efficient and marginal adjustments such as feed supplementation, biogas and energy use efficiency measures can only generate limited mitigation gains. The short-term mitigation potential is estimated to be substantially greater outside the European Union, with a conceivable reduction of emission intensities of one-third, as well as greater efficiency gains (e.g. through feed balancing and animal health improvements). Mitigation potential is also greater in the European Union over the long term, leading to a 30 to 50 percent reduction by 2050, as the livestock system transforms and taps into new technologies and practices, such as legume introduction in grasslands, geographical relocation, or transformation of grass-protein in bio-refineries.


The project recognized that efforts to address climate change in the EU livestock sector are being made, especially through research and private sector-led gains in efficiency. These should be strengthened and complemented with targeted public policies to enhance livestock sector’s contribution to reducing GHG emissions within agriculture and within the Effort Sharing –mechanism to achieve economy-wide mitigation objective set by the European Union as part of the “20-20-20” targets of its climate and energy package. In the short term, adaptation efforts in the European Union may focus on extreme weather events and emerging diseases. Over the longer term, as average temperatures, rainfall and CO2 concentration in the atmosphere evolve and impact grass and crop yields, geographical distribution of livestock and feeding strategies will also need to evolve. The project revealed potential synergies in mitigation and adaptation (e.g. legume introduction in pasture), but also identified substantial economic and social risks arising from allowing producers and consumers to carry the entire adaptation burden. More research and policy work is therefore needed in the area of risk analysis as well as technical and institutional management of climatic risk. Pursuing mitigation and adaptation objectives may amplify the existing dichotomy between industrialized and grass-based production systems and accelerate consolidation trends in the sector. Project findings urge public policies and multi-stakeholder initiatives to address these issues and prevent negative economic, social and equity outcomes. The project calls for the following efforts to help promote the transition to a climate smart livestock sector:


  • Awareness raising, information and technology transfer, which are still primary drivers of efficiency gains and adaptation
  • Research in the areas of: - Farm and system-level modelling integrating biophysical processes, economics and behavioral barriers to mitigation and adaptation - Piloting of integrated mitigation and adaptation packages - Soil carbon sequestration practices, including assessing its potential and developing monitoring methods
  • GHG emission accounting and reporting methods
  • Coordination of mitigation objectives at supply chain and national levels
  • Public policies providing effective incentives (e.g. NAMAs, development assistance, carbon markets)
  • Multi-stakeholder engagement towards continuous improvement of mitigation and adaptation performance.