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Five practical actions towards low-carbon livestock

Livestock provide valuable nutritional benefits as well as supporting livelihoods and the resilience of families and communities. Demand for animal products continues to grow in response to rising population and increasing wealth, especially in low- and middle-income countries. In spite of productivity gains, greenhouse gas emissions from livestock are also increasing. Successful action on climate change through practical action in livestock agrifood systems is an urgent priority, but must not come at the expense of other sustainability objectives, particularly those relating hunger and poverty. Hence there is a need to balance the benefits of animal-source foods and livestock keeping for nutrition, health and livelihoods, with the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to tackle the climate crisis, which also threatens food security.

The following five practical actions can be widely implemented for measurable and rapid impacts on livestock emissions: 1) boosting efficiency of livestock production and resource use; 2) Intensifying recycling efforts and minimizing losses for a circular bioeconomy; 3) capitalizing on nature-based solutions to ramp up carbon offsets; 4) striving for healthy, sustainable diets and accounting for protein alternatives; and 5) developing policy measures to drive change. This brief describes how these can be implemented in integrative and sustainable ways, taking account the diversity of livestock systems and enhancing synergies and managing tradeoffs with other sustainable development objectives. FAO can help by providing developing tools, methodologies and protocols for measuring emissions, and supporting the development and analysis of technical and policy options towards sustainable, low-carbon livestock.