The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a study today which shows how greenhouse gas emissions in the livestock sector could be cut by as much as 30 per cent through the wider use of existing best practices and technologies.

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 per cent of all human-caused GHG releases.

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

By drilling down into where and how emissions occur, the report reveals that significant emission reductions are within the reach of livestock producers.

Wider adoption of existing best practices and technologies in feeding, health and husbandry, and manure management – as well as greater use of currently underutilized technologies such as biogas generators and energy-saving devices – could help the global livestock sector cut its outputs of global warming gases as much as 30 per cent by becoming more efficient and reducing energy waste.

Many of the actions FAO recommends for improving efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions would also boost production – providing people with more food and higher incomes, with benefits for food security and poverty reduction. Currently, livestock raising supports the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people and represents an increasingly important source of protein in many regions that have long struggled with chronic hunger and malnutrition.

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