October 30, 2013

Livestock for Climate: More than mitigation from improved animal agriculture

Rachel Friedman

A long-standing contention in climate change negotiations, and more broadly in discussions of solutions, is often the explicit separation of mitigation and adaptation. Contributing nearly 15% of human-induced emissions, the livestock sector draws particular attention from the mitigation side. While a recent FAO report,  building on the findings in Livestock’s Long Shadow,  focuses on the emissions reductions and climate change mitigation opportunities within livestock management, it demonstrates how this goes hand-in-hand with adaptation, sustainability, and improved livelihoods. Managing animal agriculture in a more integrated fashion can in fact yield multiple benefits.

The solutions are very telling, taking a more holistic perspective. Besides the expected best practices and technologies in feed, husbandry, and manure management, proposals include coupling the area of energy production and consumption through biogas generators and energy-saving devices. Furthermore, the analysis looks beyond a pasture or farm, considering the implications for land use change and associated emissions. Such actions that are targeted for improved efficiency and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions also have co-benefits for people, food, and nature – providing people with more food and higher incomes, with benefits for food security and poverty reduction, and reduced pressures on land and ecosystems.

These are not aspirations of a distant future, either. The FAO report estimates that 30 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions would be possible if producers adopted technologies and practices already used by their most efficient neighbors (those whose management causes the smallest emission per unit of animal product). However, in order to make these profound and cross-cutting shift, collaboration and participation on many fronts is needed. According to Ren Wang,  FAO Assistant Director-General for Agriculture and Consumer Protection, “Only by involving all stakeholders – the private and public sector, civil society research and academia, and international organizations – will we be able to implement solutions that address the livestock sector’s diversity and complexity.”

Read More:

Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock: A Global Assessment of Emissions and Mitigation Opportunities – FAO

Photo credit: Stevie Mann (ILRI)
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