Major cuts of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock within reach

Wider use of already-existing best practices and technologies could significantly help sector reduce outputs of global warming gases

26 September 2013, Rome - Greenhouse gas emissions by the livestock sector could be cut by as much as 30 percent through the wider use of existing best practices and technologies, according to a new study released today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The report, Tackling climate change through livestock: A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities, represents the most comprehensive estimate made to-date of livestock's contribution to global warming – as well as the sector's potential to help tackle the problem.

All told, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with livestock supply chains add up to 7.1 gigatonnes (GT) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-eq) per year – or 14.5 percent of all human-caused GHG releases.

The main sources of emissions are: feed production and processing (45 percent of the total), outputs of GHG during digestion by cows (39 percent), and manure decomposition (10 percent). The remainder is attributable to the processing and transportation of animal products.

(Additional facts from FAO's report)

To arrive at its estimates, FAO conducted a detailed analysis of GHG emissions at multiple stages of various livestock supply chains, including the production and transport of animal feed, on-farm energy use, emissions from animal digestion and manure decay, as well as post-slaughter transport, refrigeration and packaging of animal products (More about FAO's methodology).

 Full report is here: http://www.fao.org/docrep/019/i3440e/i3440e.pdf