Livestock holds major potential for GHG reductions

A new study, published in Nature Climate Change, estimates that livestock could account for up to half of the mitigation potential of the global agricultural, forestry, and land-use sectors, which are the second largest source of emissions globally, after the energy sector.

Researchers estimate that agriculture, forestry, and other land use are responsible for approximately one quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. According to the new study, livestock production is responsible for 5.6–7.5 gigatons of CO₂equivalents per year, or approximately 14 per cent of total anthropogenic emissions.

The study considers both the supply and demand sides of the industry. It found that the sustainable and healthy levels of livestock product consumption in human diets is a crucial part of the mitigation potential. 

“Livestock has a role in a healthy and sustainable diet, and the sector has an important economic and social role, particularly in developing countries,” says Mario Herrero, a researcher at CSIRO in Australia who led the study, in collaboration with IIASA scientists. 

The analysis shows that policies targeting the livestock sector could potentially reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.8 gigatons of CO₂ equivalents per year, at a carbon price of US$ 100 per ton of CO₂ In order to go further, however, the researchers say that changes in consumption and a focus on land-use change emissions would be required.

“We currently have a strong global drive for curbing global emissions following last year’s Paris agreement. This study shows that livestock should be high on the climate mitigation agenda,” adds IIASA researcher Hugo Valin, who also worked on the study.

Reference: Herrero, M., Henderson, B., Havlik, P., Thornton, Philip K., Conant, R.T., Smith, P., Wirsenius, S., Hristov, A.N., Gerber, P., Gill, M., Butterbach-Bahl, K., Valin, H., Garnett, T. and Stehfest, E. (2016) Greenhouse gas mitigation potentials in the livestock sector. Nature Climate Change.

Source: IIASA News, 22 March 2016

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